There is always that big let down after Christmas when all family is gone and we are alone. More alone this year and the tears run down my cheeks. Grief is like that – days when you you are doing well – and others where your head hurts from too much thinking and crying.
Family Christmas is a big thing to me. Some years our family has been small, but most brimming with family and extended family. My memories today are of some of those big Christmas with too much food, too many presents but grandparents, children and grandchildren crowded and playing together.
Christmas at home growing up was often just us – my mom and dad, and three sisters – there was always one big present – blatantly obvious like sets of skiis or one year a ski do ( more for Dad than us ). Some years we would head after xmas to visit extended family or ski in the mountains. The Xmas after my mother died in 1966, we were three vulnerable teenagers so Dad chose to take us to Sunshine Village skiing – just the 4 of us. A great Aunt hosted the actual Christmas in Medicine Hat. Mourning in 1966 was silent – my mother the very large elephant in the room and none of us dared mention her name.
Nursing meant every other year working the holidays – but we made the best of it. I was alone one year in Newfoundland – no family at all till I came home in August. That was difficult – even the phone call home was a chunk out of my budget. My first year working in Edmonton, we went to Gord’s family – and enjoyed many of the same family traditions and foods. I think it was that year I vowed to spend my Christmases with both families, if possible. We alternated years with Jago’s and Dokkens. Sometimes that meant we headed out after I had worked a 12 hr shift or even a night shift – or arriving closer to New Years. But always we gathered here or at one of the sisters place or Gord’s family’s small war time home. Crowded, airbeds, cousins loving one another. We made it a priority to celebrate together. Some years with the Dokkens there were conflicts – that many people and ideas and children – it had to explode at times and sometimes I was the stubborn catalyst in those explosions.
So with both sets of our parents gone, we have endeavoured to keep a family Christmas intact. It is hard – with shift workers. store owners and young children – and dialysis. I am grateful that my parents, and Gord’s parents recognized what we lovingly call the ” in-law” Christmas, and that we continue the practice with no expectations having all our children present on alternate years , but we make the best of those years. Sometimes the ” In law’s” have just included us and that was special.
This year had some very perfect memories in it, despite the large hole left by hubby, dad and grandpa. It was important to me to change it up – to not have a big Christmas here – and stare at an empty chair, so our little Mountain hideaway did that. Food was perfect – and I guess it is with food in our family, very traditional – large turkey breast and all the trimmings – all perfect in my eyes. I even managed to pass off the cooking!! There were a few dozen “Cuban Lunches ” left over so now we know who ate the majority of those !! Presents were plentiful but lacking the need for excess. Those that wanted to played board games ( or Kyle’s Nintendo Switch) , and the mountain air for walks were the best way to refresh.
If you ask me to describe our family, I would tell you I have three children who are almost as different as could be possible – but all strong, happy, and unique. Two of them married spouses that I have grown to love, (without a lot of effort I must say) making a beautiful mess at times. My three grandchildren are well behaved and precious and each one, like mine – different and needing different kinds of love. I expected emotion and tried to give everyone the space to vent and be alone. And emotion there was. But the prevailing emotion was gratitude for a special man and thankfulness for the family he fathered.
So Gord , as you watched us, finally feeling better with your healthy heavenly body, I hope you were pleased and content as ever, with the family gathering that you loved so much. It was one where you were remembered and loved. Mourning in 2018 speaks his name – and his memories and that is good.
May some of my memories invite your memories of Christmas past and present – maybe with tears but hopefully also with smiles.