Written by Richard L. Withington
posted on December 13, 2013 07:35
It is Christmas on the River, a place quite different from summertime. The hustle and bustle of water sports and recreation is replaced by Nature hitting a slower pace. Leaves have left the trees, and the frozen ground crunches as you step. Small flocks of water fowl feed near shore on the lee side of an island or shoal.
There are few boats and no jet-skis. As the sunset moves almost imperceptibly toward the spire on the church in Clayton, one's mind slides into reflection, remembering summers past, friends come and gone, and childhoods;..... ours and our grandchildren's.
As I age, I think more about the past than of the future. Life seems like long stretches of time, in which nothing memorable happened, punctuated by events that may have been insignificant at the time, but are now stuck vividly in my memory as waypoints, in a long wandering journey.
As I think of Christmases past, I am reminded of our young family in a rented farmhouse in Vermont. We found a small crooked balsam tree growing out of a rock wall. It had no chance of growing to maturity or ever even being straight. It was just the right size for our little house, and we still remember the joy it brought to all of us that year. After 70+ Christmases, that's the one that I can still see clearly.
Tonight there is a ship in the Upper Great Lakes that is unusual. The crew is almost all Syrian. I hope that on their way out to sea they will see our Christmas tree all alight with bright colors. May it show a glow of hope against the totally black background of our island. The tree is on the channel side especially for the seamen who will not be home for the holidays. They may not understand us, but the message is clear.
Finally, my Christmas is not complete without thinking of a special gift I got years ago. It was Christmas Eve, and I was hurrying to make last minute purchases before the pharmacy closed. A high school classmate, whom I had not seen since graduation, hurried in. He recognized me, and knew of my profession. He said there was a man collapsed in the grocery next door, and could I help? We hustled to the store, and found a man on the floor between the check-out counters, obviously in cardiac arrest. This was before the day of 911 and instant paramedics. Cardiac arrest outside of a hospital was almost always a terminal event. Accessibility is not part of the basic CPR curriculum, but in spite of our bumbling efforts, and with very good fortune, he survived.
After recovery he worked as an aide on the orthopedic floor of our hospital. I saw him frequently during the several years he survived, and I am still struck with his joy. He was one of the happiest persons I've known. Maybe he was always like that, but happiness he brought to our patients and staff during his "life after life" was inspirational, and a great gift from him to me. Every Christmas is special because of him.
Regardless of your religious persuasion, or lack thereof, I hope that the joy and peace of the season will find a place in your heart;...that will make me happy.
Stay warm and dry......Best wishes from Round Island.
Richard L. Withington, Round Island
Dr. Richard (Dick) L. Withington is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, living out a childhood dream, spending his fifth consecutive winter alone at the head of Round Island. His wife Roseanne heads to Florida when "Rivercroft" is closed in October and Dick moves into the former servants' quarters, "Wintercroft". Dr. Withington has an airboat which he keeps at his own dock in winter ready to help. The Sheriff's office will call him directly if and when there is a problem.
Dick’s first article for TI Life, A Winter Islander, was published in January 2009. To see all of Dick’s island experiences search TI Life under Richard L. Withington. Kim Lunman, writer and publisher of “Island Life” a print magazine presented his profile in TI Life entitled The Doctor is in, February 2012.