Season’s Greetings

For the name of this post to make sense, I guess you have to know that crying in Scotland is called greeting. (I feel as if I should spell it “greetin’,” because that last g is never pronounced.) Which is to say: This is as much about sadness as anything else. How festive.

Every Christmas, I feel like I should write something about the death of my father. And every Christmas, I realize that I don’t know what to say, beyond, “It happened, and it broke my heart.”

It’s colored every Christmas since it happened in 2007, for obvious reasons. One of those reasons is that it happened on Christmas Eve, capping off a month of staying by his bedside and having what will hopefully be the most emotionally turbulent holiday season of my life; I have extremely vivid memories of staying overnight at the hospital in his room, half-watching a nativity play on television quietly next to his comatose body, not knowing what emotion I was feeling at the time.

It was decided by my family not to actually tell my nieces and nephews that their grandfather was dead until the day after Christmas, so as to not ruin the day for them. A kindness, definitely, but one that made everything surreal and difficult for the two days we were trying to be jolly and seasonal for them before the truth came out. Even more surreal and difficult when giving them gifts that came from their grandfather, and pretending he was still in hospital. Everything was grief and pretending to feel joy.

For the first few years afterwards, Christmas was a muted holiday on Christmas Eve, at the very least. I’d try — and often manage! — to get into the season earlier in the month, because I’ve always loved Christmas and all the trappings, all the lights and the music and the schmaltz and the everything, but come December 24, my mood would get colder and darker. How could I celebrate, after all?

That’s faded now, thankfully. Over the last few years, my feelings about the holiday have changed for a number of reasons — not permanently, always shifting, it felt like — as reality intruded and got in the way of what I’d want the season to be. (There were a couple of years where I barely got a Christmas at all, because of who I was with the circumstances of that; I look back on that now in disbelief, at what I allowed to be okay.)

Now, this year, I feel this has been the Christmas that I’ve longed for for years, despite the delayed start to the season because of the Brazil trip, and despite getting sick this morning. Yesterday was a good day, relaxing and in the company of people who love me, and whom I love; today will be the same. Really, it’s the only present I could need from the whole thing: Joy to the world, joy from the world, joy of being in this particular world right now. Merry Christmas, for those who celebrate.

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