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December Blues

December 20, 2011

Since we picked up Eleanor at the airport last Friday night, there has been rejoicing at my house. Also there’s been lots of dashing about going to parties and Christmas shopping. I’m doing well with my program of method acting, which is to act like I’m enjoying the season in the hopes it will happen–mostly it has. And then comes the moment when I walk by something as seemingly innocuous as a calendar with Elizabeth Taylor on the front, and my eyes fill with tears and I have to look away from the person with whom I’m walking for a few minutes.

It’s going to happen more when my mother arrives this Thursday evening. I don’t think there’s much any of us can do except continue as usual, while allowing ourselves the luxury of occasionally noting the absence in the company of others who feel it as much.

December Blues

At the bad time, nothing betrays outwardly the harsh findings,
The studies and hospital records. Carols play.

Sitting upright in the transit system, the widowlike women
Wait, hands folded in their laps, as monumental as bread.

In the shopping center lots, lights mounted on cold standards
Tower and stir, condensing the blue vapour

Of the stars; between the rows of cars people in coats walk
Bundling packages in their arms or holding the hands of children.

Across the highway, where a town thickens by the tracks
With stores open late and crèches in front of the churches,

Even in the bars a businesslike set of the face keeps off
The nostalgic pitfall of the carols, tugging. In bed,

How low and still the people lie, some awake, holding the carols
Consciously at bay. Oh Little Town, enveloped in unease.

A religious person with whom I am acquainted wrote recently that he thinks the best phrase for the holiday season is Charlie Brown’s characteristic “good grief.” I like that, because I understand it to mean the sadness of measuring each year by how many of your expectations have been met. It’s almost comical to expect that many of them will be–yet there’s no feeling unease without the possibility of feeling something better. Otherwise, everything is about ease, and about forgetting.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2011 7:37 am

    In a way (and I hope this comes out as intended), I envy you. Not the loss, God no, never the loss–but from everything you’ve written it seems as though you had a father who was truly a father and one who is worthy of being missed.

    I understand the need to fake it til I feel it. I went through some really tough times in my mid-30s and when I realized things weren’t going to change, I did that faking for three years. I recall the fog and greyness lifting about halfway through 1997, almost without my realizing it. I think that’s because I had been faking it for so long I almost believed my own act. I hope for you that the faking takes far less time.

    • December 22, 2011 8:31 am

      You can envy me having someone who was worth a period of mourning. It would have been better if you could have shared him, as so many of my high school friends did. He liked to make fun of our music. I was thinking yesterday about how he’d walk through the hallway and every once in a while stop, do this motion with his shoulders, and sing “dynamite” because that was the only word in a song I must have been listening to a lot at the time.

      • December 22, 2011 8:51 am

        Yes, the sharing would have been good. I don’t regret a lot in my life but I do regret missed opportunities like that.

  2. Lass permalink
    December 20, 2011 8:36 am

    Oh…the Christmas after my brother died was very much like this, for all of us. There were a lot of tears, a lot of weepy, rambling toasts at the dinner table, and the disturbing feeling that there was a huge hole in the entire holiday that year. Don’t turn away with your grief. Let it show. Others are feeling it, too, and those outside that intimate circle will cerrtainly understand. xo

    • December 22, 2011 8:32 am

      We’re not good at showing or sharing because we don’t like to get started, but we are good at talking about someone when he’s not there.

  3. December 20, 2011 9:09 am

    It’s strange how mixed up with sadness Christmas is generally, considering how many glittering lights we put up, but somehow it’s impossible to chase away that Dickensian feeling of melancholy and old ghosts come back for us. I hope you and your mother can stand to talk openly about how you’re doing with your grief as you were the people closest to your father and you probably need each other a lot.

    • December 22, 2011 8:33 am

      My gladness that she’s coming to my house this year pretty much outweighs my panic that she’s coming to my house!

  4. Valerie permalink
    December 20, 2011 10:15 am

    My dad and I talk much more about feelings than we ever have since my mother died in March. I agree with Jodie about hoping that you and your mom can talk about how you are doing with your grief. It is amazing how people who don’t really understand your relationship with the person who died seem to expect that you will bounce back more quickly than is reasonable. As I have said before, sometimes the strangest things can bring the intense grief (or some old cherished memory that you had not thought of in years) crashing back. Other times you know it will be hard and just have to brace yourself. Christmas, for all that I love the holiday, is a hard season because it is the one most of us have spent with loved ones for as long as we can remember.

    • December 22, 2011 8:35 am

      The good thing about having someone die at an advanced age is that we won’t miss all the seasonal things, as he’d gotten too old to do some of them anyway. We’ll remember the good parts version.

  5. freshhell permalink
    December 20, 2011 11:26 am

    Good grief. I like that. The phrase, the sentiment, this post. Virtual hug to you!! xxoo

    • December 22, 2011 8:37 am

      I like my interpretation of the phrase. I’m not sure I understand the religious and advent-related way my acquaintance (husband of a cousin) uses it.

  6. December 20, 2011 12:13 pm

    Hi Jeanne — I have nothing to add but agree with all the above. I think edj3 is right — your father sounds like a wonderful man, someone who is really missed, and that isn’t always the case. Anyway — hugs and more hugs.

    • December 22, 2011 8:38 am

      Ah, Readersguide. More tutelage in the right thing to say!

  7. December 20, 2011 1:57 pm

    I’m right there with you … I’m putting on a good face for my child but inside I’m very sad. Hugs.

    • December 22, 2011 8:43 am

      The joy of having both of my kids home is making my face genuinely good, now that it’s been in that position for a while anyway. While I don’t think we have to cover over unpleasant feelings, I do think that focusing on the pleasant as much as possible can make us nicer to be around.

  8. December 20, 2011 4:22 pm

    This list of commenters above me, I’m pretty sure they are what the ancient scribes referred to when they wrote about “a multitude of the heavenly host.”

    Your post is a reminder — in a season that teems with them — that Grief is the price of Love. The greater the Love, the more profound the Grief. I will also venture to say that the greater the Love, the less extinguishable it is by death.

    My hope for you and your loved ones is that the awfulness of your father’s physical absence will somehow, some way, someday give birth in you to all kinds of new ways to love him, and to love each other. Maybe it seems impossible now, but, like the White Queen, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

    • December 22, 2011 8:44 am

      Grief is the price of love. That’s a good thought.

  9. December 21, 2011 7:19 pm

    I also send you hugs. Internet hugs!

  10. December 22, 2011 1:36 am

    I’m sorry this Christmas will be a sad one for you.

  11. December 22, 2011 8:46 am

    As my mother says, we didn’t know how lucky we were for how long. My nuclear family hasn’t had any tragedies, and you can’t really call the death of someone who was 82 years old a tragedy.

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