Sunday, 21 December 2008

Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas is not just a song by Elvis Presley; it's a church service offered in many communities in the week leading up to Jesus' birthday for those who find all the family focus of 25th December hard to take.

I never used to really get it; this whole feeling sad on Xmas Day. But this year I'll be one of those with a jagged hole inside me, a person missing from the dinner table, a gift tag I didn't have to write, a laugh I won't hear. This year I get it. I get it all too well.

Dad's been gone over eight months now, and I still don't entirely believe it. I've caught myself a few times recently, stopping my tongue before I've asked my mother how he is.

Lately I've been thinking about him so much I've started bringing him up in conversation. Not to talk about his death but to note his absence. We had some friends over on Saturday night for a barbeque and I teased my partner that Dad would have come over and helped him finish off the bathroom by now if he was still alive. No one knew what to say and the subject was changed. I genuinely meant it as a wry joke, but I get the sense a lot of people think I'll be falling apart briefly after I mention my father unless we quickly start discussing something else.

I'd like to remember him with my friends. I don't want to forget him. And part of that is recognising when Dad's missing. For me it's kind of a strange little way of maintaining a relationship with him. I read a book recently written by former Governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts, about death and dying and hospice. She wrote about the secrets the grieving keep, the things we do to cope with loss and to honour the lost one, which sometimes other people think are a little bit mad. I found myself nodding as I read. I've loaned the book on to my mother and I hope it will give her permission to grieve in the way she wants, not the way society dictates.

So many people have been telling me how wonderful this Christmas will be, as it is my first as a mother. But the truth is that Wriggly is too little to understand Santa or presents or crackers. He'll be the centre of attention as he always is, he'll get lots of hugs as he always does. He has no concept of private property, so giving him gifts is just like showing him something he already owns.

Wriggly will be a priceless distraction on the 25th, and of course he is a wonder to behold at all times, so I'm sure he'll amuse us all, but there will be more than a tinge of sadness at my parents' house. I know there will be a lot of laughter, but there will be some tears of sorrow too. Dad really wouldn't want us to cry, he hated it when we were upset and wanted so much to protect us from anything that would make us sad. Paternalistic? Yes. He was my father after all.


Azlemed said...

I still have my dad so am lucky, but I miss my Grandma heaps, she loved Christmas so much, She died 4 years ago now on my birthday, and i still struggle with celebrating my birthday and commemorating her death on the same day.

Your dad will be there in spirit and you are allowed to be sad that you dont have him there. big hugs. D

Lita said...

Aww, this teared me up Julie. Your sorrow and your wry jokes are all signs of your respect for him and missing him.

Wriggly will more than distract, I'm sure. And next year, paper and cardboard will be all you need to make Wriggly think it was a great xmas.

Make Tea Not War said...

I feel for you Julie [hugs]

I can't remember a time I have ever enjoyed Christmas. Growing up in totally different hemisphere to grandparents and extended family my mother was always depressed, volatile and moody at Christmas. Then there were a few years when she was sick and in hospital or just out of hospital. As I got older Christmas continued to be depressing and characterized by alcohol inspired fights and when I got together with my now husband I gradually had to incorporate their family tensions and traditions and history into the day as well which I won't go into. Suffice it to say I actually really dislike Christmas. I have a lifetime of reasons for doing so and it quite annoys me when people think my occasional lack of enthusiasm is just down to meaness or spite when I am actually going to considerable effort not to shut myself away in a bunker in a depressed funk. We all should give each other more space for coping in the ways we need to cope.

harvestbird said...

I don't see the need to apologise for your sadness at this time of year (and I thought your joke about your dad was both funny and without harm), but I can imagine the stress of coming up against other's expectations of the season.

Julie said...

Thanks for your comments, it's nice to come back to them.

Tea, I went through a period of strongly disliking Xmas because it meant interacting with a very unpleasant part of my family that I couldn't escape. Luckily for me it was only for a few years, but my mum and sister put up with it for a long long time. I hope this Christmas was better for you. And hugs back too.

Hendo said...

Azlemed, my mother celebrates the birthdays of dead loved ones rather than commemorating the day they died. You might like to try that, I really like it myself.

Julie, I totally get what you mean about wanting to talk about dead loved ones without everyone freaking out you'll break into pieces. I miss my friend that died... I will always miss him... And because I knew him from birth and we grew up together, things relevant to him do pop up in conversation. So sometimes I mention him, knowing people will inevitably look very stricken and go silent. But, fuck it! I miss him, and I wanna remember him.

And the funny things you do to the remember them... love that idea too.