Monday, December 22, 2008

I've been trying to write this blog for days now. Trying to find the words for it. But I just can't write this as gracefully or make it as heartfelt as I want it to be. I can't convey the struggle in my heart. I guess maybe that sort of thing doesn't translate well into words.

Christmas is a time I struggle with in a lot of ways. I love it, I love spending the time with my family because that time is so rare and so precious. However, it's also the time I miss my family the most. In the span of 6 months in 2002, I lost 2 of my grandparents, and they were a huge part of our family, of our Christmas celebrations. It's hard for me to get too excited about Christmas, knowing that two of the rocks of our family have gone away.

We always did Christmas Eve at my dad's parents house, where my Grandpa sat in his chair (and oh we tried to steal his chair) and we opened presents. We also always positioned the trash bag for the wrapping paper right next to him and would then proceed to throw all our crumpled up pieces of paper at him, rather than at the trash bag.

Since he died, we initially continued the Christmas Eve tradition at his house, but eventually, my Grandma found it too big to take care of alone and moved into a retirement community. Now we celebrate Christmas Eve at my Dad's and there's almost never a year that goes by where we don't think of my grandfather and his affinity for sticking wrapping paper bows onto his bald head. Or his Christmas Snoopy sweater. He was just so important to all of us and I think at Christmas we all show how afraid we are of forgetting him. Of forgetting his funny little quirks, the way he always asked me what my favorite color was so he could reply "burple, what color is that?" or telling us that we're all getting rubarb for presents.

It gets a little easier each year, but I think it's because our memories have faded enough that we almost don't realize his absence.

Christmas day was celebrated with my mom's parents. My grandmother always single-handedly created the most amazing dinner, although, every Christmas she overcooked the turkey. On her last Christmas, she made the most deliciously moist and perfectly cooked turkey and I remember her saying that since she had finally perfected the turkey and that meant she was surely going to die before the next Christmas. We laughed at her at the time, as she was in fine health, and then less than 3 months later we wept as a family at her funeral.

My Grandmother had a childlike spirit. She always gave the worst gifts, but they were always thoughtful. There was one year she bought my aunt (her youngest daughter) a bell and wrote her a little note that said "a new bell, for your bell collection." My aunt, in her confusion pointed out that she didn't have a bell collection, and my grandma's response was, "well, you do now." And each year since someone has made it a point to buy her a bell.

Grandma held our family together, she demanded that we be at Christmas, and since she died, small clusters of people have slipped out of the family celebration. I know that in time we'll all celebrate with our own families and the tradition will be over, but I also know how hurt she would be to see us separating without her there. Without her cord binding us together.

Christmas feels like a double edged sword. It is a wonderful time of togetherness, yet it is also a time to remember those who can't be together with us. And I know I'm among many people who would give all the presents in the world to have just one more Christmas with those we miss so greatly.


Lipstick Jungle said...

Katie, I am so sorry that your traditions are slipping away. Mine too have changed so much in the past 7'ish years. When I lost my mom I lost all sense of what every holiday was. Because it was always with her. For the first several years we bounced around feeling displaced everywhere we went. We have finally landed in some new traditions that work - but still never feel the same. Christmas Day is at her sisters, and Thanksgiving is at her brothers. Easter is either at another sisters, or with my in laws. But the fact that they are not with my mom is really hard. They are just not the same.

My dad does not celebrate anything. Its sad. We never see him on holidays, and now that he is retired, he travels over them. Never been a tradition sort of guy. Other then when we were little kids. Since he divorced my mom and the traditions were all hers, he has just avoided holidays. I think he thinks it makes it easier on us not to have to add another stop on our lists, but really, it just makes us miss him.

I hope that this Christmas will be memorable, and maybe start some new traditions. Have a Merry One friend!

lace1070 said...

Thanks for sharing your memories ~ your grandparents that have 'gone home for christmas' sound like they were incredible human beings. How blessed u r to have gotten to know them while they were here! I think as the years pass by you will create your new traditions, but always hold onto the memories. I don't know if you have heard this song, but I thought I would pass along the lyrics to your e-mail ~ Home For Christmas by Steven Curtis Chapman. Hugs and Merry Christmas ~ Lace

the queen said...

I feel for you. And the Mom who lives in my head feels for the aunt who got the "collection" assigned to her. When she died I insisted that everyone who gave her a whale mug for her "whale mug collection" take it back. People like Mom who can't use their arms really don't appreciate heavy mugs.

I have faith that we both can start new traditions that incorporate our late loved ones. Isn't there anyone else bald in your family who can stick bows on his head?

Becs said...

the Queen is right. Shave Slappy's head.

Now is the time to start creating traditions of your own. Invite as many people as you can bear to have in your house / apartment / abode. Include the cranky old women who have no other family. (Hey! Who could that be?)

I'm sorry for the loss of your grandparents. Cherish who you have with you now.

Ness said...

Katie, thank you for writing what you did. I totally understand. Christmas was lost to me my 14th year of life when my mom died. We always spent Christmas at my maternal grandma's. Dad cut off all ties to my mom's family and remarried his exwife within 6 months of Mom's death. I am just now 40 years later getting back into Christmas. My dad died from Alzheimers in 2001. My favorite part of Christmas is Midnight Mass. Your grandparents and your past Christmases will always be in your heart and will help you shape the Christmases you have with your kids some day. Thank God for memories!

Anonymous said...

I've been out of the country, so I'm way late and just catching up. This post really touched me. This was the 11th Christmas without my mom. When she died, all the holidays went to hell and the small amount of family I had all went their separate ways. It can be hard on me, the husband and kids to always be just us for Christmas, but the idea of starting our own traditions is really what has saved it for us. I hope you find some of your own.