I did it. I started listening to Christmas music. and everything was beautiful until I started bawling in the middle of O' Holy Night. on an airplane. with nowhere to hide but the undersized antiseptic-smelling bathroom…and even then I would've had to climb my snotty nose over the happy home-for-Thanksgiving passengers between me and the aisle.
so then, naturally, I got mad. because, dammit! that's a great Christmas song and the only tissues I have at 37,000 feet are my sleeves but now, for some reason - unbeknownst to me - I can't listen to it without remembering my dead brother. and that he's never coming back. never. not for Christmas, not for any Christmas to come. not for my wedding, not for what would've been his. not for the birth of his nieces of nephews. not for the discussion about what to do with our ageing parents. it will all happen without him.
and I can't quite wrap my head around that. because he's always been there. ever since, well, ever. every memory I have includes his freckled face. our family unit, my sense of self, my life in its entirety - I defined it all with him in mind. he was always a part of the equation, my equation.
Christmas, five years ago. I got on a plane headed for California so he wouldn't have to celebrate his 1st Christmas in rehab alone. he was angry and ashamed. but we were together and together we had hope.
Christmas Eve, four years ago. Kevin had just gotten out of rehab, again. and asked that I take him Christmas shopping. 1 hour before the stores were closing. so that everyone had a gift from him. I tried telling him that he was the only gift anybody
wanted needed, but he insisted. and so we went. less than 24 hours out of rehab, with only pennies to scrape together, he made sure everyone had a gift with his name on it.
Christmas, last year. we were all trying to pretend the holiday was perfect. going through the motions as though Kevin hadn't just been released from the hospital the day before from another overdose. I specifically remember saying, "welcome to my crazy, dysfunctional family"...
what I wouldn't give to have that crazy family back again for one more dysfunctional Christmas this year.
this year, this year we're cancelling Christmas. There will be no mashed potatoes (not even the mashed cauliflower ones I try to pass off as "just as good"), there will be no stuffing, no pumpkin pie or roasted brussel sprouts. because, who wants to sit at a table with an empty chair? who wants to pretend we don't go around the table saying what we're thankful for each year, because this year, thankful is not a word that readily comes to mind? we all only really have one thing on our wish list. knowing full well that it won't be sitting under the tree that will stay in storage this year. not on this side of heaven anyway.
but as I sit here typing this (still on flight 802), thinking on Thanksgiving tomorrow, I have to remember that even though this may not be The Best Time Of Year for me, it is for him. I imagine Jesus throws a damn good Christmas party. his pain, suffering and insecurities have been wiped clean. he found whatever it was he had been searching for and the heavy weight of his guilt and shame have been unloaded. he's free.
and for that, I can never be more Thankful.