“The Season” is forced upon us in euphemisms like “celebrate family and friends” and “give the gift they’ll love” and reminder after reminder that we are to celebrate with love and joy in our hearts while celebrating around the fireplace, waiting for Santa. When I was younger I bought into it: the rush of the shopping mall, the twinkle of lights, the picking out the perfect tree and decorating it. After 2007, it is so difficult to be without my loved ones that I feel my heart breaking; now, that is no euphemism.
You ever grieve so badly that you were surely going to die: the pain in your heart overwhelms you so that your ears ring, you cannot focus, and you have no idea how you continue to breathe? The world moves around and over you and your feet are frozen to the ground. And for myself and so many others, from November 1 to January 2, this is how we feel when the “holidays are upon us.”
When I was a kid, my family had a tradition, “who can get to my grandparent’s house first on Christmas morning.” Family clusters showed up at 7:00 a.m. falling out in laughter because one of our households was already there, asking, “what took you so long?” Paper flying around the living room and the cat sneaking under the tree for one last climb. A cry of how happy someone was to get that gift, and usually a gag. (My uncle once gave my mother a ring she had coveted all year, but he froze it in a block of ice so she was forced to wait all day to wear it.) My grandmother, the glue in the middle of it all, was busying herself making coffee, cooking the meals, joining us in the pictures.
Now, I don’t celebrate. Our family has scattered to various states, and states of mind. And by the beginning of November it starts: a burst of tears over a memory (my grandmother loved driving to look at Christmas lights so I cry when I see decorated yards), the hole in my heart enlarging, and straining to hear the dead and buried come back if only just in spirit.
It helps to know I am not alone; no matter how long it’s been, there are people who dread the holiday ‘family time” because there is an empty seat at the table. It may be because of disease, or age, or even a murder or missing case.
Am I being morose? Should I keep my melancholy to myself? Maybe I should listen to the friends and family and magazine articles: “She would want you to go on and celebrate” or “do something special in/cherish her memory” but that doesn’t make me feel any better, not really ... a shabby band-aid.
I feel compelled to share my story because I know I am not the only one. As a crime writer I am so aware many families are missing a vital piece, so the holidays are just not so jolly or special anymore. We will never get over it, and sometimes we barely get through it. And we have a right to not celebrate the holidays.
(the accompanying photo is the last photo taken of me with my grandmother)