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.