The Thanksgiving Holiday is over and Christmas is being shoved in our faces, full force. Our daughter set up the Christmas tree, a tradition that usually happens on Thanksgiving Day, this time two days late. She and I went to the movie “Hugo” on Saturday, just the two of us. The theater was so cold we had to snuggle up together under my big coat, which I am glad I brought.
I cooked a turkey, we had dressing, a sweet potato souffle, broccoli, gravy, bread and a pumpkin pie. The turkey was small because it was free range and organic, and apparently turkey’s don’t get as big as the one in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without major hormones and stuff. Most of the leftovers are gone, and I am satisfied with that.
I am trying to figure out the whole Christmas Shopping thing, doing most on line, that is not new either. I like to shop online. So that has not changed.
I am trying to figure out what has changed among those of us who are here. Our newly-wed daughter, for the most part, is functioning just as she did before she was married.
My husband spent his holiday in the garage, working on the Super Beetle that was our son’s first car. He started this project before our son died, so this is not a new thing. And had our son still been alive and well and here with us, my husband would have been in the garage working. I know that he is grieving terribly and this gave him something to concentrate on this holiday. I do not begrudge him that.
I did my usual, be available routine. If people are in my house, my schedule flies out the window and I concentrate on them. What they would like to do. Facilitate, that is the word. I worry if they are happy, enjoying themselves. I can be sharp and sarcastic and so I worry if I hurt feelings.
My son-in-law is having to get used to us. It was not easy before when our son was among our ranks – and we kept tight ranks. Now frayed at the edges and trying to figure out what-in-the-world we are doing it must be difficult at best to figure out what to do with us. Grief has stripped off some of the veneer we used to try and keep in tact and we are just who we are now. Lumps, bumps and all. He is not without his personality quirks, and I don’t have as much patience as I once had to figure out how to deal with these or compensate. He loves my daughter which covers a multitude of quirks. Adults dealing with other adults with all their crazy behaviors firmly intrenched is a difficult thing, and after a few days everyone is getting on everyones nerves..
My husband has a habit of asking when folks have left the room, “is everything alright with (fill in the blank).” It puts me on the spot. I am left thinking about the people who just left while he goes back to watching the television having dumped his concern on me to take care of. Responding in any other way to him right now, after all these years would make him angry. And I don’t want to deal with that, so regardless if I know or not, I try to reassure him that things are “okay” and then I brood.
My daughter obsesses over her health. She is trying to reduce and quit some medicine she has taken for years for OCD. It is a painful process, in the light of her brother’s death and the stress of a new marriage. I really have little I can do for her except listen. My instincts are to scoop her up and take care of her during her “withdrawal”. The problem is that we are individuals and that can only go on for so long before friction occurs. The friction occurs with independent will rubbing up against independent will – wanting to keep in tact all the co-dependent behaviors that reward our warped psyche. Sounds like a theory anyway.
Maybe it suffices to say that old habits are hard to break.
Without meaning to I would picture how things would go if my son were still here.
He would have disappeared a couple of nights while his friend was in town to go out with him and visit. Leaving around nine or ten, not telling us he was leaving till the last moment, maybe inviting his sister and her husband all-the-while hoping they would not come. I would half-sleep until I heard his car coming up the drive, a habit I had. Now when he lived in another town, I never knew what time he came home – so why that was the habit here, I have no idea. He would have fussed about me not making a pecan pie, so I probably would have had that pie and some cookies baked. He probably would have gone to the movie with us and then wanted to go eat sushi somewhere afterward (my daughter and I came right home).
He would have hated all the TV programs we wanted to watched, making fun of them as we tried to tune in. He would have become impatient with his new brother-in-law and frustrated with his dad. He would have behaved jealously about attention given to anyone else but him by anyone else period.
My nephew and his beautiful family visited on Friday afternoon/evening. My son would have been fascinated by them. The oldest daughter is precocious and insightful, the two middle boys love chess and occupied themselves while they were here – my son would have been there watching and coaching. He would have loved to talk with the youngest boy to hear him parrot every word. He would have argued politics with his adult cousin.
As it is our behaviors during this holiday did not change appreciably. We behaved pretty much as we always behave and our son would have behaved as he always behaved. If our behaviors are different it was because we were tiptoeing around the huge empty space where he is not.
Death is something we know will happen, but not something we can appreciate in hindsight. Perhaps we should alter our behavior towards each other because we cannot know what tomorrow will bring, but we don’t, and if we could it would not be able to be sustained. It would cripple us.
I would be getting tired of my son by now. He imposed himself in a unique way and I because I could not control my own behavior and needs to be with him, as I seem to need to be with my daughter wear out their welcome for them.
I don’t mean to. It is hard to give each other enough space. We get root bound.
And maybe that is it. In our root bound family pot the uprooting of one family member has left us in shock and we are struggling to adapt. Our old behaviors so ingrained, old behaviors that were never very wonderful to begin with continue. The need to push is still there, without any one to pull from the other end.
There was never any way to fix anything anyway, yet now it seems more of an imperative to try, as if we are characters in some movie that deserves a happy ending. In “My Fair Lady” Rex Harrison sings “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” talking about the little things that are second nature to us, like breathing out and breathing in. Having this person was second nature to us. So much a part of us that we didn’t really even have to think about it. His absence is so large and normal family holidays turn the spot light on the empty space. We stand around and try to warm ourselves by the fires of memory, but it is still awkward and usually brings tears.
I know he was a pain in the butt at times, but he was our pain in the butt. I would like to be coping with that again, if indeed it was a problem. But that is the whole hindsight thing in play again. I won’t get that opportunity.
I am trying not to allow this all to become some tight spiral. I just have to admit that as soon as my daughter leaves I miss her, even if we are tired of each other’s company. And when the week begins and my husband goes off to work, I will miss him being here. I miss the times we had together as a family , though they have evolved and changed with time. I miss my son. I miss him coming and I miss him leaving. I miss his voice, his touch, his face.
I don’t think Christmas will be much tougher than Thanksgiving. I am trying to let it happen as it will, aware that change is the constant. Painful though it may be.