There are two kinds of people in this world (okay, we all know that couldn’t possibly be true, but go with me on this) those who love the holidays, and those who hate them. You rarely find people who are on the fence about this one. “Eh, the Holidays are okay,” has probably never come out of anyone’s mouth.
And they aren’t here yet. Yet. But everyone wants to know, “What are you doing for the Holidays?” Halloween hasn’t even happened. The trees still have leaves. But people can’t help looking forward to this joyful time. You know, they start making their lists and checking them twice. Wondering about whose been naughty and nice. Dreaming of a white Christmas, and what not. Being a member of the later group, that’s right, the one that hates this time of year, I’m already dreading their rapid approach. Pretty soon people will be dressing turkeys, trimming trees, decking the halls and letting old acquaintances be forgot. (Whatever that means) And I’ll be participating. Reluctantly, with the rest of the merry revelers. Dawning a forced smile and obnoxious holiday inspired costumes. (Never underestimate the power of a bedazzled turkey t-shirt.) To mask my misery. To combat my contempt. I guess this makes me a member of the sub group of individuals who hate the holidays but pretend to love them for, I don’t know, the sake of the economy? To fit in? In the desperate hope that maybe playing along hard enough, will catapult them to a member of the first group of humans who are actually enjoying themselves.
Must be nice. But I venture to say that there are more people who feel like me. Or, I’d like to believe that in order to feel less alone.
There are many complicated reasons why the holidays pose such a challenge for some of us. For me, it starts with the expectation to be thankful, merry and optimistic. We must gladly put our feelings aside and be happy, Damn it! Spend gobs of money to fly to see our dysfunctional families. Agonize over recipes and gifts to please said individuals (we hardly know) knowing that our efforts will more than likely fall short and unhappiness will still hang in the room, more prominent than the Christmas light adorned garland. Like most children of divorce, I had a hard time with these joyful celebrations. I don’t care how you spin it; two Christmases are not better than one. Basically, after I found out that Santa Clause was a myth and my parents didn’t really love each other, I had a hard time finding joy in overeating dried out carcasses and unwrapping inexpensive presents (usually socks and underwear) my now single mother couldn’t really afford.
With the proper foundation set, this time became next to impossible when my father passed away two days before Thanksgiving. 2005.
It was sort of sudden and quite tragic. The product of a life spent chasing the joy found at the bottom of a bottle. Most things can withstand abuse for only so long, and his liver had had enough. Funny. Flynt hated the holidays too. So his ironic parting gift to the family was an eternal reason not to celebrate. Who said my father never gave me anything? That year the family, my family, decided to wait to have a service until after the holidays. So we buried his ashes January 5, 2006, a little over a month after his actual departure. But this pause on proceedings didn’t make him anymore alive.
Somehow, I was still alive, but the one who ended up in Purgatory. And it’s such a festive time to be waiting. I was free to enjoy the holidays, because he wasn’t really going to be dead and buried until after the forced celebrations were over. So I ate turkey and I was thankful. I wrapped presents and I was generous. I mingled at Christmas cocktail parties and I was wasted. Going through the motions of merriment hollow and hurting inside. Is it fair to say that 2005 was a pretty crappy Holiday season? It was our final act of defiance against him, even though he was a little too dead to notice. “We’ll be sad at an appropriate time, Mister. And the holiday season just isn’t that time.” So there.
I want to apologize for a brief moment, to those of you who thought I was going to be snarky about how miserable the Holiday season is when you are single. Cause that sucks, too. And spending another Holiday season alone is looming in the not so distant future. But dead Dad trumps going stag to your office holiday party. Pretty much every time. Just when I thought my displeasure could be distilled to no special someone to give presents to yet again, I can’t ignore that it is also because I have always missed that. For whatever reason, my dad was never capable of being my special someone when I needed him to be. And then, he had to go and die. So, boyfriends, urban families, pretty presents, delicate decorations, a cappella carols, hot coco, dogs in Santa hats, Alf Christmas specials, letters to Santa, snow angles, sparkly wrapping paper, home made tree ornaments, figgy pudding, and candle lit renditions of silent night at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine make this season a little brighter, but ultimately can’t bring back the dead. Or restore a sense of family long lost. Now that would be a true Christmas miracle.
I try not to talk about it. For the most part. And honor the people in my life who don’t have this kind of memory haunting their holiday season. There are ginger bread houses to decorate and wreaths to hang after all. And parties to enjoy. New happier memories to create. Because even though it is the only certainty in life, death makes most people very uncomfortable. Especially at Christmas time. Probably because most of us don’t know what to do or say to make a person who has experienced this kind of loss feel any better. Because there really isn’t anything you can say. It hurts. And keeps hurting, I guess until it doesn’t anymore. The overwhelming truth is that this sorrow is mine and my families. And working through it, five years later and counting, is something I must do by myself. During the most wonderful time of the year.
And no amount of promiscuity (I’ve tried) or self-imposed celibacy (still trying) will change this either. I will probably never stop missing my father. Our relationship was admittedly quite complicated. And then he died at the age of 54. I know he would be proud of me and my journey. And is probably rooting for me to find that nice guy who will make this whole year worth it.
Here’s hoping Dad. Here’s hoping.
And that’s what I’m thinking about when Starbucks puts out the red cups. You?
Categories: See Jane Give Up Dick