Christmas Thoughts

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I am missing my parents a lot this Christmas.

I am not sure why it is worse this year. It’s now been several years since my mom died, and a few since my dad passed. That first year without them, always the worst, has come and gone. So have a couple of others. I and my family, my sisters and my kids, have begun creating new traditions.

Life goes on.

People told me that this is how it works. Loss of parents is not like other losses. It lingers. The place in our hearts they held never quite fills in, and from time to time the pain rises anew. Something will trigger it.

Neither of my parents died at Christmas time. My dad died in January. My mom, early in the spring. It is not like when my favorite grandfather (my dad’s dad, for those that like to keep the genealogy straight.) died and we buried him the day before Thanksgiving.  I could understand my feelings of loss if my parents had died around Christmas. But that was not the case.

I think what triggered the sense of loss have been some conversations between myself and the woman I love as we look for gifts for our kids. Buying presents for kids in their twenties is a different beast. It involves less about the fads of culture and childhood and more about where they are in life. It turns into a discussion of just that – where they are.

That’s the way it was with my mom and I as Christmas approached. Deciding what to buy was not just gathering a list, it turned into long rambling discussions about where everyone in the family was, what factors were playing on their life, where they were going, how they were growing. It was part of why I was often able to give gifts that no one asked for,  but treasured later, because they were based on a person, not a list of wants.

I’ve missed those conversations, more about people than presents. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until they were gone. (Isn’t it always that way?). For the first couple of years after their deaths, I just did Christmas without them. But this year, I am married, and the woman I love is a talker, a discusser. Once again those kinds of conversations are part of my life. Perhaps even more so, since we talk every day. And all that talk brings up my parents, particularly my mother again.

The hole they left, I can tell you, has not been filled.

When my grandfather died, my father, weakened by some serious health issues, cried. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. (the only other time was when my mom died.) Later, he apologized to me for crying.

I can remember what I told him – “If you can’t cry for the people you love,” I said, “you may as well be dead.”

I still believe that. So if I shift, as I have this morning, to a place of almost tears, even while sitting here at my second favorite diner, that’s OK. It’s part of loving, to feel that much.

The melancholia will pass. I have long since learned the art of changing sadness and loss to a kind of rejoicing. I am fortunate. My parents lived and I was able to enjoy them into my late fifties. I have known all my grandparents into my forties. I’ve known some of my great grandparents into adulthood.  Known them as people. I’ve been able to love and be loved by them and have memories and lessons that came from all of them. In my house, I am surrounded by reminders of them, furniture, pictures, quirky odds and ends.

So I will let the sadness wash over me this morning. It’s not a bad thing. It is a reminder of their importance and value in my life. A reminder that some things are irreplaceable.

As they should be.

Tom

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