I am a people watcher. Not in a creepy, what-the-heck-is-that-chick-looking-at kinda way, but I just sit back and soak up people’s reactions to what is going on around them. I found myself doing it at a funeral I attended Saturday morning. I watched a daughter holding on to her young son, her face buried in his shoulder, as she cried quietly. I watched a son sitting intently holding onto his wife’s hand as he listened to his own words being read. A sister sobbing, tissues clutched tightly in her hand. Others sitting with shaking knees, either uncomfortable with the words being spoken or by the emotions spurred on by the day. Grief finds it own grip on each of us and even long after sometimes refuses to let go. Does it stay because it has something it needs to teach us before it leaves or is it just a sadistic bastard that likes to watch us suffer in pain?
Either way it all begins the moment those words are spoken and usually begin with an “I’m sorry, but….”. We replay that moment over and over in our heads, wishing it away. They are words that make us feel numb and lethargic. They slow time. My moment happened in a T.J. Maxx store as I held a bottle of perfume and a faraway voice on my cell phone telling me that my mother was brought in to the E.R. and did not make it. I dropped the bottle of perfume and surprisingly it did not shatter, but I did shatter in my own way. I never imagined that over five years later I would still get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach when something reminds me of her. This year her birthday and Mother’s Day passed and I remember thinking…..Damn, I finally got this! Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Grief sucks. How do we move past it?
Even when it’s been quiet, hiding in the attic covered in three layers of dust it doesn’t take much to drag it out. A smell, a voice, a movie, a song, a favorite meal, a holiday, a football game, a memory bring it on in the blink of an eye. This time of year for me and many is the worst, planning Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas get-togethers knowing they just won’t be the same. They are moments you can’t forget or pretend anymore. You have to face those stories you tell yourself that they aren’t just sitting at home in their recliner watching CSI.
The first holiday without them is the hardest and I wish I could say it gets easier after that, but it doesn’t. My mother loved Christmas. When my sister and I started having children she was uncontrollable and it wasn’t just in the gift giving sense, she just went overboard on the whole green and red and elves and santa’s and tinsel crap (yes, I said crap). She LOVED Christmas. She had a different pair of BIG Christmas earrings for each day of December which would usually prompt me to raise a cynically judgemental eyebrow and ask what the heck was hanging from her ears. You see, I am a Grinch and I always have been a Grinch. Since my Mom left us in 2011 I have been an even worse Grinch (if that was even possible). One year my daughter snuck a small fake tree already decorated into my living room, which I almost tossed out but allowed it to remain until December 26th. Two years ago my Christmas tree was a few barren branches (not even of the pine variety) stuck in a bucket with some lights. I didn’t have the room or the spirit to do anything more. It hasn’t been very fair to my kids, even though they have moved into adulthood.
This is the sixth holiday we will spend without her. My sister and I learned from the best so the food will be as amazing as it always was. Lasagna, a long standing family tradition for Christmas. They are my favorite people to be around. Somehow, though, this year I’m thinking I need to do better. I have four grandchildren of my own under the age of two and now I AM THE NONNA. In dealing with the recurrence of grief this year I have learned that there are lessons my mother still has yet to teach me. I don’t always listen to them, which probably drives her just as nuts now as it did when she was here with us. I have always been the stubborn one. This year I feel it…..there is a lingering lesson this woman has to teach me and it’s covered in tinsel and wrapped up with a big red bow on top. I need to embrace this time with my family and not be so Grinchy, have some holiday cheer, and decorate until those little faces light up when they walk into my house because tiny little chubby-cheeked laughter is what makes it ALL magical. And maybe, hopefully…… it’ll chase the Grinch away for good. If they can’t do it I’m not sure there is much hope for me.
Like I said, grief sucks. It can easily suck the life out of us especially this time of year.
I’m willing to let the Ghost of Christmas Past in this year and try something new and I have a feeling it will help me kick some of that feeling I’ve had this year.
What are you willing to do….to try?