Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghost of Christmas past

It's Nov. 29.

That means tomorrow is Nov. 30.

And there's only 25 more days after that until Christmas.

The corporate holiday party was last week. I didn't go. I never do. The girl with no date always sticks out like a sore thumb.

Plus, partying is often the last thing I want to do in the runup to Christmas Day.

For many, the holidays are festive and bright. For others, it isn't quite so easy.

Me and Dad
It's been 15 years since my entire family celebrated Christmas together and that last Christmas wasn't exactly brimming over with holiday cheer.

My father, you see, was on his last legs. The doctors had sent him home to die. The cancerous tumour on his neck had grown so large it was cutting off circulation to his arm and he was unable to eat, sustaining his life with Ensure energy drinks.

We all knew in our hearts that he didn't have much longer. It was the elephant in the room and yet no one would talk about it. I spent the long nights on vacation from my job in Newfoundland crying as hard as I am right now.

We all pretended it didn't exist ... for the sake of making Christmas worse than it already was.

I left the next day or the day after Boxing Day. I can't quite recall. I know it was some time after the entire house erupted because Kevin leaned across Mom's oak dining room table to kiss his fiancee-now-wife, Diane, and broke it.

As I stood in the doorway with my bags packed, I told my father not to get up. That I would come say goodbye while he sat in his chair.

In all his stubbornness, he pushed his frail body up and shuffled his way over to me, enveloping me in his arms. I was afraid to hug too hard. I thought I might break him.

He died some two weeks later.

It's my ghost of Christmas past. Did I leave too soon? Should I have spent more time with him that Christmas? Should I have talked to him more, let him know it was OK to go? That I knew it was coming ...

And so for many years, I avoided Christmas. I still went home to Nova Scotia as often as I could, playing the role of dutiful daughter for my mother.

I wonder sometimes whether my brothers have it any better. They're all married and two of them have two beautiful daughters each.

I wonder if it's any easier to wake up on Christmas morning, knowing they get to sit around their trees and pass around gifts to smiles and laughter.

Me? I fight through it many days, punching against the dark shroud that can cover me like a black wool blanket.

I decorated the apartment last year, the first time I'd done that since my roommate Rosetta and I adorned our duplex in Gander back in 1995.

And I'm trying to start my own tradition of making Christmas my own, the single girl in a world of families and festivities. Last year, I left Calgary and drove to Seattle to spend it with friends. Altogether, it was a great time but there was something missing.

I still don't know what that is.

This year, I have 10 days off, skilfully arranged around the statutory holidays that fall on the weekend, the days off in lieu and only two days of holiday time burned.

I know I'll wake up Christmas Day to my most loyal friend, Shep. But there won't be any gifts under our tree. Everything will already have been opened by then.

I'm invited to a friend's house for Christmas dinner and Shep and I are scheduled to spend New Year's Eve in Idaho with our American friends.

Still, that's all three weeks and more from now.

In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to put on my holiday face, make merry, drink lots of eggnog and join in the Yuletide fun ... never forgetting the spirit that Dad and Mom brought to Christmas when we were kids.

But know that sometimes I'm forcing it and it isn't exactly easy.


  1. Ang, you should at least celebrate the fact that, even this many years after your dad's death, you still feel an overwhelming love for him. That hole in your heart right now is because you had someone wonderful, even if it wasn't for as long as you wanted it to be. Big hugs.

  2. Yup, you were right. I shouldn't have read it. Bawling like a baby. I'm sorry for your loss. I know it never gets easier. Christmas is tough without my brother.

    I have my own reasons for having not celebrated Christmas for years... not because of a death, but my own personal reason. I now have to celebrate it since having kids and that has gotten easier because the kids joy at this time of year warms my heart.

    I like what the poster above said. So very true.