Thursday, November 19, 2015

Holiday Blues

Dear UD,
I stand here, looking at the next month and a half, and I am paralyzed. All that’s left of 2015 is the holiday season, and for us, that means my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Lexi’s 21st birthday and New Year’s Eve, not to mention several other family birthdays.

Flip the calendar back one year and the landscape changes drastically. 

A year ago today, I prepared for our much anticipated trip to visit Lexi, and in many ways, you were part of my unforgettable birthday celebration and our adventures in Manhattan. We experienced a NYC Thanksgiving, five people and a toddler scrunched around the table in a kitchen the size of a closet. Dinner was delicious, and the whole day was lovely and perfect. That evening after watching a movie in plush recliners, we walked to 85th street and took pictures of the apartment where you lived for years, right on the edge of Central Park.

A year ago, we planned and packed, selling or donating most of our furniture to return home for the holidays. Christmas on the farm with family, surrounded by loved ones. Photographs with Dad for the last time. Huge meals, stockings and presents around the Christmas tree, kids jumping on the trampoline in the cold, games of Spades, Bridge, Cribbage, and Scrabble, 10 siblings, 20 cousins. 

A year ago, Lexi’s 20th birthday and New Year’s Eve celebrations with you and Britt. You treated us to opening week of Into the Woods at the movie theater, and we all loved it. Afterwards, we ate birthday cake and played Broadway around your dining room table until the ball dropped. We clinked glasses, sipped our sparkling apple cider, and welcomed in the New Year with kisses and hugs. Love and laughter. The first day of 2015, we woke up to family and you, cooking omelets for each of us.

I didn’t know then that it would be the last movie with you, the last time we’d play the game you created. I didn’t know then that Dad would be gone in just four days. Yes, he was on hospice. Yes, he was shrinking and struggling for breath, but he hid how bad the pain was, and we thought we had more time. More time with him and definitely more time with you. I didn’t know then that you would leave us, suddenly, near the end of April.

Last holiday season….so many memories that I cherish. I look back and smile.

I look forward and weep. How do we move forward into this first holiday season after such loss?

Just yesterday, someone mentioned decorating Christmas trees, and suddenly, I remembered the I love NYC ornament that I bought for you last November and gave you last year for Christmas. Gut-punched, I realized that you would never get the chance to put it on your tree.

I talked to a sister and cousin, both also missing you so much. The prospect of putting together a family calendar without you is unthinkable. How do we do this?

Instead of Christmas songs, I’ll put on some Muddy Waters and B. B. King. Eric Clapton and Etta James will sing me a bedtime lullaby. And, I’ll think of you and Dad.

The activities, the busyness, I can do that. I can continue on, do the traditions, but the emotional part, the joy and peace and love that belongs to this season, I don’t see how I can get there this year.

What I can do is choose my focus.

A new baby in the extended family, and what a sweet blessing.

A sister off the streets, on a bus headed home for the holidays.

Gracie, a calico kitten, purred and bounced her way into my sister’s home. 

My daughters, intelligent and talented, bold and beautiful—together for this holiday season. 

So, I reach my way through paralysis and take a small step.

UD, I will sing a song for you and Dad, raise a toast to you, play a game you taught me, think of you…always.

Love, Rach

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