By Jack Cumming

A narrative of old age and the holidays

Gus Farley came to senior living as many do. He had a fall and wrenched his back. The hospital discharge nurse recommended a care home, and as the leaves colored and fell, foretelling the start of the fall, Gus moved into a comfortable assisted living room.

The Adjustment.

It was difficult for Gus to leave his home of fifteen years to move into a care home, but his life soon changed for the positive. Not only were there people to tend to him, but there were people to care about him. Staff members cared and so did other residents.

After just a few weeks, Gus felt much better, and he was happier than he had been for years. The cloud of loneliness lifted as a “family” of new friends and caregivers surrounded him.

Gus had no family of his own, no spouse, and no children to visit. He had grown used to the solitude of living alone, but now, here were all these new friends who were soon like family. He loved them and they loved him back. He had much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving held special meaning this year. It came just six weeks after his arrival. His new friends invited him to share a table for Thanksgiving dinner. Gus knew that this was where he belonged.

The Season of Light.

Thanksgiving was followed by crazy shopping days. Then the Festival of Lights that marks the season of darkness magically spread. Television showed the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. The Rockettes danced.

This year, more than any since his childhood, brought to Gus the magic of the holiday season. At last, he had the family for the holidays which he had dreamed of since he had lost his parents many years ago.

Christmas Eve found Gus sitting alone in his room reflecting on his blessings. He was just thinking of how contented he was when the phone rang at his side. Startled by the ring, Gus pulled himself together and picked up the receiver.

“Is this Gus? … Gus Farley?” the caller asked tentatively. “Yes,” Gus answered, “Do I know you?”  “I don’t think so,” came the response. “Did you live at one time in Skowhegan?” Gus was startled again. “How do I know you?” he asked. “Did you live there 56 years ago, and did you know Susan Baker?”

The Light of Love.

Now Gus was fully alert. He was taken aback by the mention of Susan. Of course, he had known Susan.  She was the spark that had lit up his life.

It was long ago, very long ago, and her family did not approve of the relationship. As he and Susan had grown closer, her family had suddenly moved away without notice. He never heard from her or her whereabouts thereafter. Also, he never met anyone he cared for as he cared for Susan.

After a long silence, Gus responded, “Yes, I knew Susan. We were close friends. Why do you ask?” His caller hesitated as well. Slowly she spoke, “I think you may be my father.”

Gus was more than startled. Now he was flabbergasted. A long silence ensued. Finally, Gus spoke, “I have no children.” His caller responded, “I believe that I’m your daughter, and if you’d let me, I’d like to get to know you.”

The Gift of Life.

The conversation went on for a little over another hour. His daughter spoke of how her mother, as she was dying, had shared the secret of her daughter’s birth. As they spoke, Gus was increasingly pleased with the woman at the other end of the call.

His daughter, Janice as it turned out she was named, was audibly relieved that her father, her biological father, wanted to know her. They agreed to meet shortly after the New Year.

That afternoon, as Gus reflected on how this one call had changed his life, his Christmas contentment with his residential friends grew into joy. This was the most wonderful Christmas gift any human being could ever have.

Not only did he now have his friends as family, but he had a descendant family. Janice had spoken of her children and her very young grandchildren. It took Gus time to fathom that he was now a proud, very proud, great-grandfather.

That first Christmas of Gus’s new life in a care home was like no holiday he had ever had. He didn’t know where to turn with his joy, so he turned toward God with thanks for the blessing that now was his. He could hardly wait for the New Year to begin.

Merry Christmas.

It could be said of Gus, thereafter, as Dickens closed A Christmas Carol, “ … and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Time observed, God bless Us, Everyone!”

Click here for the real-life quest that inspired this holiday story. The story begins after a CBS commercial.