My grandfather died on Christmas Day when my mom was fourteen, my uncle twelve and my aunt ten. I never understood or appreciated the magnitude of this event until a few years ago. While I was growing up my family would talk briefly about their dad, my grandfather, but to me he was a name, a mere distant relative and I was unable to wrap my head around him. For them – Mom, Grandma, Charleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeene and Marvo Marvo instead of acknowledging such an event, instead Christmas was always a big deal in out house, shopping and gifts and spending and the whole thing was quite overwhelming. As children Buffy and I benefited from the excess and for years there was talk of “that Christmas” when the presents literally spanned the front porch through the kitchen.
Each year it was more of the same, presents stuffed everywhere, boxes and wrapping paper littering the house, who bought what, and just everything being so extra. As an adult I rebelled against the large, excessive Christmas. The idea of shopping until my wallet was busted, someone complaining about a gift (I won’t name names but YOU know who you are) and the stress of not appearing grateful enough bothered me. What do you buy for the people that seemed to have everything? How did you buy when there were other things to shop for? The family would come together and make plans for a less excessive holiday but inevitably someone would break the rules and let it slip and so everyone, me, would be sent scrambling trying to purchase a last minute, yet meaningful somethings that were priced enough to show that you care. When I still worked at the hospital gig I would choose to work every holiday to avoid the inevitable drama that would accompany our family’s get togethers.
This year I decided to actually talk to my mom and aunt about their dad, my granddad and get their perspective. Since this holiday is going to be kid less, I thought I would spend the morning sleeping in or…sleeping in. My mom had other plans and seemed disappointed that I was treating the day as just another regular ole day off. When I spoke with her about the holidays, actually sat down and tried to find out how she felt, I was very surprised by what she said.
My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, something that he kept away from the younger children. On Christmas morning the family had just finished breakfast and the kids were about to open presents when they heard him fall. My aunt said she was afraid; she didn’t realize that he was sick and thought he had perhaps hit his head on a chair. Luckily their neighbor was a nurse and she rushed in to help them out. My grandfather was taken to the hospital and my aunt and uncle were left with my mom as care giver. As they waited to hear word of what was happening with him that Christmas Day so long ago, Mom remembers worrying, crying and being told that everything would be OK. When finally allowed to go the the hospital they were told that he died and both have said the holiday was never the same.
The next year things were just as bleak. My grandmother had a heart attack and had to spend Thanksgiving Day in the hospital. Holidays were a sad, depressing affair until my sister and I were born. Finally! A reason to celebrate again. But like most people given too much I resented all of the attention and extravagance and decided that I would not “do holidays like that”. In retrospect I really wish I had taken the time to learn more about the story before now. As it stands I feel bothered by the holidays, unable to appreciate that this is more than a time of buy and spend but a time to reflect with family.
Since The Bee won’t be home I will still sleep in but instead of an emo affair* that will inevitably include a Law and Order marathon I will spend some time with my family and enjoy their company as they open gifts, eat and celebrate the day. I can always catch Lenny another time.
Prepping for a holly, jolly Christmas.
This post is a part of Shell Things Pour Your Heart Out Wednesdays
Write a post from the heart.
Something that has been weighing on you.
Something you feel passionately about.
Something you’ve been wanting to talk about.
A cause, a memory, a belief, a world view.
*Meaning that I am staying home feeling sorry for myself and not getting dressed whilst eating Ramen Noodles.