People have been telling me lately that I should write to you. It feels kind of silly to me. I talk to you all the time, just as I’ve always done. I cry to you in my car when I am upset. I whisper questions to you when no one else is around. I scream at you sometimes because I am angry you left me and sad that you couldn’t beat cancer. I look at your picture on my fireplace and tell you about my day.
Sometimes, as I’m going about my evening routine, thinking something happy, I smile at your picture– eternally smiling back at me– and I creep up close and secretly share my thought. Just as I’ve always done.
“Mom, did you see what I found for Hannie for Christmas? I’m so excited, she’s gonna love it!” …
Of course, I don’t tell anyone else all this. Because even though I’m sure everyone who has ever lost a parent or someone close to them at some point talks out loud to their departed loved one, I still worry that someone would raise an eyebrow and judge me for “crazy” behavior.
(Did I just hear you laugh when I said that?)
Anyway, Mom, I’m writing this silly letter early in the morning on Christmas Eve. Aubrey is still asleep upstairs, and so are her dogs– two little chihuahuas. I know you’re a cat person, but you’d love them, Ma. One of them is only three pounds and she thinks she’s a cat, I swear.
… So I’m here in the living room with the lit-up Christmas tree. I took the real-looking fake one you and Dad bought and decorated it with Grandpa & Grandma’s old ornaments and whatever I could find from last year that didn’t get broken in the “ornament smashing incident” of 2010. <Sigh> The tree looks as pretty as yours did last year. And I made a star out of cardboard and tin foil like you and Chris did years ago. Aubrey was so impressed with my creativity that I had to sheepishly admit I had stolen the idea from you. Aren’t you proud I actually gave you credit?
(You just narrowed your eyes at me, didn’t you?)
We have tons of presents under the tree. Big stuff, little stuff, wrapped all different kinds of ways. I was remembering last night how you used to wrap the presents all differently with fancy ribbons and patterns. I tried for some variety, but my stack of gifts doesn’t come close to how beautiful yours used to look. I appreciated that, you know. I don’t think I ever told you. … one of a thousand things I have left to tell you…
You died too soon, Ma.
Soooo… anyhow… we’re going to visit Alex today and hang out and maybe do a local day trip or a drive. Then tonight we go to Aubrey’s parents’ house where her Dad will play Santa for the kids. Then Christmas morning Dan will bring Alex here and we will all have brunch and open presents before Dan and Alex go to see Dan’s family. …
I remember we were all together at your house last year. I remember what you cooked, I remember how the house looked and smelled and felt. … I had a moment of panic last week and I broke down sobbing to Aubrey in my kitchen because I was afraid I couldn’t remember everything. You said to me the last time it was just you and me together in your house that I would remember everything you taught me and all you said, and that it would be okay, that I would have it all inside me.
… I miss you so much, Mom…
I get afraid that the memories, the lessons, the important things will slip away from me, will fade from my mind. But I did manage to find the ornaments and set up the tree and put some pieces of Christmas back together this year. That gives me hope that somehow it’s all still here. Somewhere.
You made this holiday special for our family every year. Christmas was yours (and Grandpa’s before that) and it was always wonderful even if plans got changed or there was an argument or regular family life somehow threw a wrench into things. It was wonderful because of your tin foil stars and all the little things you did. You seemed calm in the busy-ness of Christmas, I think, because it brought you peace and you actually remembered to remember what it’s supposed to be about.
I’m going to try to make it good for the kids this year. And I’m leaving your picture right where it is, so you can watch it all and I can shoot you a secret glance once in a while. I’ll take a leap of faith and presume I’ll feel okay about it all in the end.
… And if you want to send me a sign, or leave me a message, or something like that… well, that would be good too. There’s a new bluebird ornament on the tree for you, right near the star.
I love you, Mom. Merry Christmas.