It’s now the third Christmas since I lost my wife, Andrea, and this year, 2013, seems to be the one where “moving on” took more physical form than mental.
It might be, perhaps, that we’ve dealt with so many losses this year that I figured it was time to rely on my own sense of self than to rely on something from the past. That first year, December of 2011, I had to make a lot of decisions about Christmas, and even the most simple was the most difficult to come to terms with. Last year, during the decorating phase, my oldest asked me why I wasn’t putting their mother’s stocking out. I had to think that answer through, very hard. Abbi, my oldest, is still dealing with the loss, moving far slower than she’d care to admit into the emotional morass. I had to wade into it far earlier. Not saying I’m perfect, I still have many, many moments of dark sadness, but they’re far fewer than they used to be.
My answer was pretty simple, as it’s the reason I didn’t put it out. My boys still get visits from Santa, as do the two older girls. So there is no easy answer when they wake up Christmas morning and find either a) the stocking is full . . . so if Mom’s gone why is she still getting presents from Santa? What does that mean? Where is she? Then there’s b) the stocking’s empty, no presents, and they get it reinforced, on the most celebratory day of the year, that their mother is gone. Forever. The look on my daughter’s face showed her I’d put a lot of thought into this and it was the right thing to do.
But as this year has progressed, we seem to have lost so many it’s like the whole of existence wanted to see just how much my family and extended family could carry on their shoulders. We lost my grandma, who had a long life, sure, but it’s never easy to see that come to an end. Every Christmas was spent in memory of sugar cookies, family, company, talking in the little kitchen in my grandparents’ house in Nebraska . . . opening our presents then going to their house and opening what my grandparents gave us. Even last year she sent money to get the kids presents, which I was about to return when my parents told me it would mean more to her if I did what she asked: buy presents. I did, and when I sent her a card I told her what she bought the kids. She forever called the boys “my twins” – taking possession of them herself, and loving every picture. She even hung their pictures on her wall as a badge of honor.
We lost Andrea’s parents, one of my kids’ sets of grandparents. That’s a harsh reality considering my grandparents lived into their nineties. Then came the loss of my friend, drummer, and dear friend to my brother, George Marshall. That was just last week.
So many losses made for so much adjustment and change . . . it seemed the house was the only control I had left. We got new lights for the outside of the house. I looked at the way we’d decorated before and come to the realization that, even though Andrea’s presence was heartfelt, some things just weren’t me. Not any more. I don’t want’ leopard spotted bows. I can’t stand the damn chickens she had everywhere in our kitchen.
I bought new ornaments and garland. I got different lights. I even bought a bigger tree than we’ve ever had.
It’s a different holiday and I hope it’s the harbinger of better things and newer life in the new year. I hope to see new adventures and maybe new projects. It’s not something I’m overwhelmed by I look forward to it.
There’s a hew holiday and I’ve done new things . . . but the ornaments are still the ones given and made over the last 18-19 years. This is the time of year we honor the past and look forward. I think we’ve managed this even in the spirit of how we march toward Christmas.