Both Sides Now

“The Season” makes me crabby.  Grumpy.  Irritable.  I’ve come to hate it.  Everything about it.  I hate the music, the crowded stores, the decorations.  I especially hate the decorations.

Last year a friend stopped by our house in the middle of December.  “God, it’s December 15th,” I said to her, “and the only decoration I have up is the wreath on the door!”

“I don’t think that counts, Lease,” responded my husband John. “You didn’t take that down from last year.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Tonight, I’m looking around at my undecorated house thinking, “uggggh,” not “Ho ho ho!”

It wasn’t always true, though.  I used to be one of them.  I was a veritable Christmas Elf.  I baked, I decorated.  I embroidered Christmas stockings for the whole family.  My son Jacob and I built gingerbread houses that did not come from a mix or a box and were actually made of gingerbread stuck together in the shape of a house!  My friends got a bottle of homemade Irish Cream liqueur.  Some used it to get their kids to bed on Christmas Eve.

But mostly, I sang.  The records, tapes and CDs came out on Thanksgiving.  From the moment I woke up the day after Thanksgiving, until New Years, I would trill away.  “White Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  I belted “Mele Kalikimaka” when I had an established escape route to avoid people trying to punch me.  I know the words to all 18,423 verses of Frosty the Snowman.  I would start singing in the shower and keep going until John tackled me and put duct tape across my mouth, usually at about 8:30 a.m.  Regardless, I’d start up again the next morning.

If the current, Crabby Christmas Me got a hold of the old Merry Christmas Me, I would slap myself silly.

So you see, I do understand the Christmas-sy part of Christmas.  The love, the joy, the traditions.

But now I see the other side.  And it’s that “tradition” part that is to blame.

You see, my family’s always been fairly competitive.  My mother and her sister Ruth were particularly so.  They’d argue at each shared Sunday dinner over a million things:  whose gravy was better (my mother’s), who cracked the best one-liner (always Aunt Ruth – she was a hoot), and most traumatically for me, whose young daughter was taller. (Duh, Maureen was almost a year older than me – of course she won every time.  But you’re not taller now, are you?  And you’re still older, Maur.  You’re still older.  How do you like it??)  Darn, I wish I’d missed the competitive gene.

When I was a kid, Aunt Ruth was high on the list of my favorite relatives.  Now she’s tops on an altogether different list.  And it ain’t Santa’s list, neither.

Because Aunt Ruth started a family tradition.  A competition.  But it’s not a family tradition I recommend, especially during the Christmas season.  In fact, it should have a warning, although I’m not sure where you’d put it:  Don’t try this at home.

You see, Aunt Ruth started the tradition of kicking the bucket on a major holiday.  What fun!  Great idea!  Not many families do that!  Hey, we are DIFFERENT!

Knowing Aunt Ruth, I’m sure her last thought was “Doris, you’ll never top this one!  I’m dying on Thanksgiving!!!!”   She was no doubt a bit miffed when my mother joined her a couple of years later.  Because, not to be outdone, Mom arrived in the afterlife on Easter Sunday.

Their party really got going when we reached Y2K, and my sister Judy died unexpectedly on my birthday in January.  Now, you might argue that my birthday is not, technically speaking, a holiday.  Not a paid day off for most folks.  But hey, in my book, this qualifies.  So there.

As time went on, there were fewer and fewer holidays I could celebrate.  The only big one left was Christmas.

Guess what happened on Christmas, 2000!  Yup, Dad reclaimed his spot at the head of the table with Mom, Judy and Aunt Ruth. Dad trumped them all.  Or because it was Christmas, perhaps he trumpeted them all.  Maybe both.

I must say I am rather ticked off about it all.  Sort of changes the tone of the Holidays, you see.  I plan to have words with all four of them, next time I see them.  And I will not be nice.

In the meantime, celebrating holidays, well, it just seems so odd to me.  Especially Christmas, because Christmas is so stuff-oriented, and most of my Christmas stuff is from them.  It takes a bit of the fun out of decorating.

For a while, I considered joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.  That way I could celebrate the same holidays, just on different days.  I could keep all my Christmas crap!  I could decorate!  I could bake!  I could sing!  But then I realized that the change would just give us all additional high priority target dates, and I don’t have enough family members left to meet the challenge.  So Eastern Orthodox is out.

At the same time, I also realized that, when Dad hit the Holiday Lottery, the whole tradition had to stop.  Because I’m pretty sure that biting the dust on, say, Columbus Day, just wouldn’t cut it.  So why bother?

Nevertheless, this whole thing has made me decidedly anti-Holiday.

There is one holiday I still look forward to, though.  Groundhog Day.  I just can’t figure out what sort of decorations to put up.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

99 Comments

Filed under Family, Humor, Music

99 responses to “Both Sides Now

  1. Oh…I really don’t know the appropriate response to this post. Would it be terrible to tell you I laughed just a little bit? I mean, really, your family DOES seem to be deliberately doing these things just to mess with your future happiness! May I suggest changing religions completely?

    Judaism may be a good choice, those 7 days of gifts are a pretty nice benefit! In the meantime I guess all I can suggest is to close the door, turn off the TV and pretend nothing special is happening this month!

    • You are free to laugh — I do, but only because “‘laughin’ and cryin’ you know it’s the same release.”

      Besides, I’m sure they are all laughing at me!

  2. RVingGirl

    Hysterically funny and brilliantly put!
    Sad that you lost so many loved ones on ‘holidays’. It would seem that perhaps, in the end, they too did not really like those particular holidays!
    Good you can laugh at it now, albeit it cynically.
    By the way, just before I sat down to read this and put my 2 cents worth in, I turned off the blasting Christmas music that my husband had blaring throughout the house. He has just popped out to see his mom and so I am enjoying the sounds of silence.
    Actually I do LOVE Christmas music and the decorations but only can take so much. Cheech……it’s still 3 weeks away. Give me a break, sweetie!

  3. And, as we say down South, “Bless your heart.” I’m not sure a virtual hug is appropriate. You leave me speechless and uttering “Bless your heart.” again.
    PS
    My parents celebrated their anniversary on February 2. We never forgot the date and Groundhog’s Day has a whole other meaning for us.

    • Viral hugs are warmly accepted — and returned! Thanks Georgette!

      Can you tell me any good decorations for Ground Hog Day? You may be the only expert I know!

      • Well, I don’t have any decoration ideas, but I do remember baking my parents a “Cinderella Cake” from a children’s cookbook.recipe for their anniversary. hmmm…I think you’ve just given me a February 2 post idea.

  4. Wonderful post, Elyse. Of course, I’ve heard this especially distressing part of your family history, but I also know that you’re Irish, so I felt completely free to laugh, especially since I’m pretty sure when you go, you’ll aim for St. Patrick’s Day and pretty much everybody, including you, will be sloshed. Not yet, though, so don’t get any ideas! You’ve got some of your funniest lines ever in this post. I really loved it! Don’t worry, we’ll muddle through the holidays somehow.

    • Glad you liked it! I have been working on it for a long time, and couldn’t figure out how to find the humor in four deaths. Until I pictured them all at the kitchen table, laughing, and drinking beer and having a wonderful time.

      But you figured out my payback! St. Paddy’s Day? But for the next several decades I will stay home and make my own green beer!

  5. I wanted to click “like” but it somehow seemed inappropriate to enjoy all your relatives dropping dead on holidays. I guess they didn’t want to be forgotten.

    • I often feel that way about the “like” button. Sometimes it doesn’t quite fit!

      This posting was marvelously therapeutic. I have been humming Christmas carols for a good hour now. When I spontaneously break into song, the healing will be complete!

  6. I’m sorry you’ve had so many losses that have dampened your enjoyment of every holiday. You said your family is competitive. Clearly, your dad won the competition. There’s no need for anyone else in your family to participate in this unfortunate tradition.
    I hope you are able to find some joy in the season. If not, look on the bright side, Groundhog’s Day is exactly 2 months from today :)

    • Yes, it would be hard to beat Dad. It was the same while playing cards!

      And actually, I still can find the fun in Christmas — I just wish the hype didn’t all start in October.

  7. Holidays are difficult enough when you have lost family during the months before the event, but losing family on the holidays, that just makes for a painful memory. I am in my own bah humbug mode also. Too much sensory overload and now as an orphan (I can say that at my age can’t I) a Christmas without either parent is going to be a new experience.

  8. It is a bittersweet experience. You WILL get through it. But be good to yourself. And always remember that if there wasn’t so much love, if there wasn’t so much goodness, there wouldn’t be quite so much pain.

  9. Your wit is hilarious, I enjoyed this very much. I, too, am an orphan so to speak, lost Mom last year so this is my 2nd Christmas without her. Your post reminds me of her so much because she took her independence from cancer on Independence day July 4th. However, the irony is that she was born on Groundhog Day. If coincidence means anything at all, I can tell you what to decorate with. Little red banty hens, Mom was tiny but her red hair and fighting spirit live on. As do your great posts. Adding you to my blog roll if I haven’t already, that is :) Thanks for the laughs, bittersweet, yes but such fun visiting you, always.

    • Thanks Aurora,
      Thanks for sharing the thoughts of your Mom. And she absolutely does go on for all of the lives she created and touched. Made better.
      And thanks for the idea of banty hens! I am chuckling as I write.

  10. You can be sure, all of your relatives are laughing right now. I loved this post because I try to find humor in everything…sometimes even the tragic. It really helps me to heal.

    My father didn’t die on the actual day, but he died a few days before his favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. He loved the pie, the football, the turkey. So every Thanksgiving I dread it. I don’t even want to celebrate it but it happens to be MY husband’s fave holiday as well…so I muddle on through like a trooper (but I still hate it!)

    My mother is 78 and in poor health. We joke about her death all the time. I tell her, don’t you dare die around Christmas! And we laugh and laugh. My family has always been pretty blunt about things I guess.

    Anyway, Elyse, this was a brilliant and funny but bittersweet and poignant post. Not something most people could pull off, but you did!

    • Hi Darla,
      Actually, this was probably the most healing bit of writing I’ve ever done. I have felt sorry for myself for 10 years until I pictured them laughing together in triumph! It changed my whole perspective from “poor me” to “damn, you guys are NOT funny…”
      Sorry about your Thanksgiving — I do know how you feel, and this year was my first non-grumpy T-Day in a while. I hope you made it through ok.
      And I’m glad that you can laugh with your Mom — you and I are clearly related. But not by blood so you don’t have to join the competition. AND NEITHER DOES YOUR MOM!
      Thanks for your kind words. And since I see that you have a new post (!) I’m outta here to read it.
      Elyse

      • That is wonderful that this post was so healing for you! I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but your post reminded me of this vivid dream I had recently, it was my Gram (she died when I was pregnant with my firstborn) and my great-grandmother (I never met her, she died before I was born) They were walking along the ocean, picking roses and laughing and smiling. I was shocked to see them, naturally because they were both dead. They told me to meet up with everyone else (who had already died) at a picnic. I asked them, what time is this picnic? And they laughed and said “there’s no such thing as time here! Just show up and we’ll be there.” They were both filled with such love and laughter. It really changed my perspective on the afterlife. I truly do believe they are together and having a good ol’ time. And I will seem them again someday. I hope you are able to remember your family with more laughter than tears this Christmas.

        • What a beautiful dream. And if it was a beach in Maine, well, then, that quadruples the wonder of it!

          Changing the picture has made a HUGE difference for me. For 10 years, I thought only “poor me” — imagining them laughing about the whole competition makes me smile.

          Thanks for your lovely story!

  11. 54.5…. I was going to echo the sentiments expressed above… first off, I am so sorry to hear about all of your losses and their impact on the ability to enjoy holidays… I totally get that… I was going to suggest Judaism as well…. the holidays float around each year due to the whole different calendar thing… I want to wish you a happy holiday season…. but instead I will wish you love, good health and peace all the days of the year…. shalom my good friend….

    • Thanks Jamie,
      I do like the idea of a floating calendar — but then we just go with the Holiday rather than the actual date. But I am getting better. And while I will never again be the Old Merry Christmas Me, the world may be a better place for it! All that singing …
      Welcome back — I’ve missed you! And I loved your new posts on sleepdeprivedandinsane.com.

  12. Something tells me that you made a comment regarding the Like button the other day on my post. Hmmm … whether it was you or not, it was ok – so I clicked it here!

    Meanwhile, you had took through a wide range of emotions. But, you share it with great wit. Thanks!

    • Yes — that “like button” — odd really for some posts. But it is useful when you don’t know quite what to say, or don’t have time to say it!

      Thanks for stopping by and for your nice comment and, yes for “liking” it!

  13. This pushed some buttons for me but not on the same plain. I’m trying SOOOOOO hard not to get blue this year. It has more to do with being broke (again) and, some of the kids not coming. Makes it super lonely for my nine year old. It’s not that we need a lot of presents or anything. Just knowing that even to buy some special food, a bill will be put off, etc. Boo-hoo-bug. Thanks for your clarity.

    • Oh Tina, sorry you are having a rough time this year.

      It does seem though, that no matter what one’s hardship is, it is magnified at this time of year. But I am trying to be more cheerful than usual this year (there is only one way to go with this one!). And part of my M.O. is to not worry about the trimmings, the stuff the things that make my head spin and my heart ache.

      Feel free to go THERE with me!

      Loved your latest post — http://daysift.com/2011/11/30/plumage/

  14. I remember those days of Christmas giddy but mine too have since past. Mom got my brothers birthday and dad got mine. Oh well, I wonder what our children will bear when we go.

    • Ouch. Sorry to hear I am not alone in this club. It is really annoying when folks do that — you’d think they’d time it better. I sometimes think of the Jack Benny line — “Now CUT that OUT!”

      I actually feel SO much better having written this piece, though. It was completely cathartic. I even went out and bought a Christmas CD today. Carole King. It’s awful!

  15. Oh, Elyse, I’m so sorry about the loss of your relatives in the first place: much especially on holidays. (My sister was murdered by her estranged husband on April 15. My other sister commented that we’d always remember it happened on “Tax Day”.) It’s perfectly understandable that you’d feel the way you do.
    Oh – and Groundhog’s Day: it’s my anniversary! 02-02-02 – so celebrate! )(Glad you found me over at Renee’s place. Feel free to visit often!)

    • Oh my. I think that your loss tops mine many times over (I hate this competitive streak in me). Losing my sister Judy was the hardest thing I have ever lived through, and she went naturally. There isn’t the added sides that you and your other sister must have been dealing with ever since. I wish you well — because I think it is a lifelong challenge.

      I will think of you when I’m watching Punxsutawney Phil wonder what the heck is going on!

  16. I was ready to smugly agree with you about the holidays. They make me crabby, too, but I don’t have anything like your reasons. I’m sorry that the holidays bring you sad memories. I hope you can create some new ones that bring you, if not joy, then at least some fun.

    • Oops sorry about that. I think that the Holidays are filled with enough noise (“Oh the noise, noise, noise noise) to make anyone Grinch-y.

      But I honestly feel a million times better since writing this piece. And this year, I’m going to enjoy the holiday. I am not grumpy, Grinchy or crabby for the first time in many years. I do still hit the mute button more than usual, though.

      Thanks for your comment, for reading, for YOUR blog. I’ll be seeing you a lot during the season.

  17. I’m sorry to hear about your losses on special days.

    But really, maybe they just didn’t want to be forgotten. I’m sure they’d want you to remember them with a smile, even if it is through your tears.

    • Perhaps that is the reason for it, but I doubt I would have forgotten had it been on any old Tuesday. But I do think of them with smiles and love. Always.

      I have read, though, that holidays and Sunday football always see a spike in those statistics. All due to stress of both! Ah well.

      Thanks for your comment!

  18. I was feeling a bit crabby myself but you put that in perspective. Hugs to you. Like others have said, that is quite a story.

  19. Thanks for the hugs. It is a sad story but as I’ve said to other commenters, writing this piece has made a huge difference that put it in perspective for me. It still sucks, but I am able to laugh at the overwhelming bad luck-ness of it. That has really helped and I am not nearly so crabby this year as in the previous ones. I am even, on occasion, singing!

  20. Judy

    For some its not Christmas with out cookies and wreaths….for me its not Christma without you singing Mele Kalikimaka. Glad you have found your voice again!

  21. in someone else’s hands, this story might have been depressing or maudlin. instead, you managed to find humor in it, even though the undercurrent of sadness is there, too. i think your dearly departed relatives would laugh like crazy if they could read your account.

    i think i have a way of exacting revenge on all of them. many, many, many years from now, i think you should choose to depart this plane at the stroke of midnight of the new year. the family will argue for decades over whether you kicked the bucket on december 31st or january 1st. you’ll always be remembered, and it will become a tradition to toast to you every new year’s eve.

    • Thanks, Nonnie.

      That balance was exactly what I was looking at. Because you really do have to laugh sometimes, no matter that it hurts. After all it is the same release. Besides my family was a group of very funny people and they would have been chuckling too. Thanks for not feeling sorry for me — that wasn’t the point!

      And your idea has definitely got merit. Another commenter suggested St Patrick’s Day. Both are good possibilities as long as I don’t forget myself and drink on the road and bring someone else with me!

  22. Awesome post! Silver lining? … You have TWO reasons to celebrate each holiday while the rest of us only have one. On Christmas you can celebrate the life of your father. As I get older, the only memories of past loved ones that I still have are good ones … I’ve forgotten all the bad stuff. And for that I’m thankful.

  23. Now that is some strong lemonade you’ve made from my lemons! Thanks! I will drink some with each holiday meal from now on.

    As I’ve said to a couple of other commenters, writing this has put a lot of the pain in perspective. I have started decorating. And an occasional song slips out, too.

    Thanks for reading, listening and commenting!

  24. Pingback: Such a Choice! | FiftyFourandAHalf

  25. This is great writing. I recognize that wry Irish wit, as it runs deep through my family. I hope that this Christmas you are able to sing again. -kate

    • Thanks for the compliment!

      There is nothing like being Irish — we always know how to laugh, no matter what. That’s how we survived the English.

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I’m off to check yours out!

  26. Just read this blog and I SO get it. It’s just too much anymore. I wrote about that in my last post. Simplifying Christmas. Some think we’ve gone all Scrooge on the holiday. It’s really that we’ve just gone all self-preserving sane. Hang in there.

    • I am actually enjoying it more this year, after my catharsis writing this post.

      But crabby or sane, we persevere, don’t we! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  27. Amen, Sister! Great post, and I can relate.

    • Thanks for finding this post — it’s the one I’m most proud of. Or the one that was the most therapeutic. Probably both.

      Now New Year’s in my family is still a happy time, so I will wish you the best for 2012!

  28. Please put me on your list of slow learners who want to be “slapped silly” when we go w-a-a-a-y overboard making Christmas bigger and brighter and busier…and crazy. This was a wonderful, funny, real reminder.
    Thanks, Elyse.

  29. Sure thing, Marylin! But it’ll have to wait until next year — cause the stuff’s about to come down.
    Happy New Year — and how did you find this “old” post — it’s nearly a month old!

  30. So, I did read it and I did laugh… thanks for that. However, as another Irish gal, prone to sarcasm and wry humor, I would say: Valentines day? The day of eternal love, etc… it may not trump Christmas (your dad clearly was more competitive than them all!) but then all those lovey people would feel guilty. Or, for true wittiness, your own birthday! Come in and go back out on the same day, would show true panache! Thanks for checking out my blog, http://talesfromthemotherland.me/, thanks for the wonderful humor and thanks for sharing in my grief. Support is wonderful, whether it’s cyber or not! :-)

    • Nope. We are not going to hit any more holidays. For years I would panic whenever anyone so much as sniffled in the days before a holiday. My eldest sister, Beth, who had significant health issues was hospitalized over July 4th, 2009 — I flipped out. She promised me that she wouldn’t hit a holiday. She died a month later on a non-descript Tuesday, keeping her word. It still sucked though. But hey, who can be Dad’s feat?

      I will be checking out more of your blog, as I hit follow.

      And I hope your road to acceptance, recovery, well to days where you can remain dry-eyed come quickly.

  31. Pingback: Who Am I? | FiftyFourandAHalf

  32. Reblogged this on FiftyFourandAHalf and commented:

    I’m away and thought I would post this piece again, for the non-elves among us.

  33. twindaddy

    Well, hopefully the holidays aren’t entirely horrible for you any more.

    • This piece, written last year as I felt the dread in my heart at the coming season, was the most therapeutic bit of writing I’ve ever done. I was able to celebrate last year, and this year I am really not dreading it too much. Huge difference. Writing is magical sometimes — a great way to explore and purge your feelings.

  34. I am feeling the same way too this year. I always watch Christmas movies but this year I haven’t watch one of those sappy movies at all. No decorations, no shopping merry bone in my body this year.

  35. I swear we are the same person or twins separated at birth. My mom died on the 4th of July weekend, Nana on Thanksgiving, Grandpa on Christmas and my Pop who was a union man on Labor Day – it makes them all bittersweet. It took us years to reclaim Christmas – actually we’re still working on it.

  36. You don’t put up decorations on Groundhog Day, you just dig a hole in your neighbor’s front yard and stick a stuffed beaver in it. (Beaver, groundhog, they’re all rodents.) Then you call the local paper and tell ‘em your neighbor wants to challenge Punxatawney Phil. Then, just sit back and watch the media tear your neighbor’s lawn to BITS. (Doesn’t work so good for apartments, though, unless your neighbor is on the ground floor – or better yet, the basement!
    What a bizarre and gruesome post, Elyse. And yet, oddly, not surprising…. :p ;)

    • I’m going to try your suggestion out on the hated neighbors who let their dog bark at us incessantly like a junkyard dog. It won’t change anything, but it will at least be therapeutic. for me.

      Gruesome? Bizarre? Nope. Just real life. But it was therapeutic. Seriously. Just seeing Dad playing cards with Mom, Judy and Aunt Ruth made a huge difference in my attitude. Perhaps as I said to Artsi above, these folks just had to make as much of a splash going out as they did hanging around!

  37. Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
    He rode to the tiptop to dump it!
    “Pooh-pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
    “They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
    “They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
    “Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
    “The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”

    “That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,
    “That I simply must hear!”
    So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
    And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
    It started in low. Then it started to grow…

    But the sound wasn’t sad!
    Why, this sound sounded merry!
    It couldn’t be so!
    But it WAS merry! VERY!

    He stared down at Who-ville!
    The Grinch popped his eyes!
    Then he shook!
    What he saw was a shocking surprise!

    Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
    Was singing! Without any presents at all!
    He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
    IT CAME!
    Somehow or other, it came just the same!

    And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
    Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
    It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
    “It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
    And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
    “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
    “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

    • I’ve watched that movie with my great nice/god daughter 4 times in the last two days. It is right.

      Then again, nobody dies in Who-ville.

      But I have readjusted my Christmas spirit to be more like Bob Cratchett’s than Scrooge’s. It is a start.

  38. Michelle Gillies

    Elyse, It seems are lives are similar in so many ways.
    Here’s the thing that got me with the Holiday deaths. They lasted sooooooooo long. We had to wait to have everything done. The wakes, the funerals, the announcements, all were on hold until the Holiday was over. You are left in this limbo land that drags the closure stuff out. Made me crazy! Still does.

    • I had forgotten that part. Our family funerals were sparsely attended because of the inability to get to Florida for them. Ugggh

      It is amazing how many of us have had this experience.

  39. I’m sorry your family all left you on holidays & you feel like you have nothing to celebrate anymore. May I suggest “shadow boxes” as the decoration for Ground Hog Day?

  40. On a serious note, I’d say that, if a moment of reflection is your thing, you can reclaim them to remember family and love, as some major religions preach.

    On a less serious note, if anyone I know dies on St. Patricks day, I will not be at the funeral.
    But it will be a hell of a wake!

    • Wait — Christmas isn’t about presents? Easter not about chocolate? I’m shocked.

      And a St. Paddy’s Day wake would be a blast. In fact, all big Irish wakes are.

  41. Elyse. I hit the “like” button, which seemed totally inappropriate, because I do love the way you wrote this story, but I am horrified that you’ve lost so many loved ones on holidays or any other day. Yikes! I laughed and I got teary-eyed. Excellent storytelling.

  42. I love how you take something that could be so somber and make it so very sweet. Thank you for reposting this.

  43. Well, I can see that your sense of humor was going to find a way into this post no matter how great the difficulty of finding humor in what you’ve recounted here. I admire you Elyse, for the talent and also the toughness you have to be able to write humor while writing about tragedy. I can seldom do it… I can be funny when I’m in a good mood, but if I’m depressed or really emotionally hurting, you won’t find any humor in me, because I just can’t do it.

    But Elyse, I just have to say this… I am so sorry that you and your family have suffered through so much loss of your family members on several holidays, and all the grief and heartache I know you suffered during what were supposed to be happy and joyous celebrations, that were turned into getting ready for yet another funeral. My heart goes out to you… and all the more so, because you lost your sister on your birthday. That’s just cruel.

    I hope this doesn’t seem like keeping score, but Christmas has not been kind to our family either. You already know about my brother John, but there was also my mother’s mother within a week of Christmas, and my Uncle Van two weeks before Christmas.

    But worst of all, in a way so horrific I may never be able to write about it, my brother Dan lost his 14 year old daughter 5 days before Christmas. Dan adored his daughter, he and his wife also have two sons, and Dan loved and still loves his sons. But Tara was the one he bonded with on a deeper level, and I think that was because her personality was the most like his own, more than his two sons, whom he loved, but Tara was the delight of his life. After she was taken from him, Dan was never the same again, and while he lives a relatively happy life now, he still isn’t the same man to this day, that he was before he lost Tara. Something vital inside him died along with her.

    Sorry for being so gloomy, but I just can really relate, and I’m just so sorry what you’ve been through. Take care Elyse, and thanks for sharing with me.

    • Oh Chris, so much sadness. I’m so sorry. Especially for Dan — however he lost his daughter, well, parents shouldn’t lose their children. My dad never recovered from losing his middle child. And how can anyone?

      This post helped me come to terms with some of it – the holiday aspect of it, at least. In writing it, I wanted to put it in a more palatable light for my readers. But in fact, it helped me way more than them. Somehow this helped me lighten the load. Because it let me see that my family members were fun, nutty. They would turn death into a competition (damn them). And since there isn’t anything I can do to change what happened, I can change how I look at it. And that is worth a whole lot to me.

      This was written for Christmas 2011. I did another Christmas post this year (2012) (http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/12/17/home-for-christmas/) and you know, this year I made it through Christmas without tears for the first time since 2000.

      Writing is magical.

      Love to you my friend.

  44. Hi Elyse. I just read and commented on your wonderful post, and thanks so much for putting the link here for it, so that I could enjoy it. I’m so glad that you made it through Christmas this year without any tears, for the first time since 2000. Yes, writing is magical in general, and your writing is magical in particular.

    Hey, guess what?! I guess it’s now officially the Holiday Season here for our family, since I just got word that my Dad passed away about an hour ago this morning. The doctor at the nursing home pronounced him dead, in his bed at the nursing home, and THEN they called an ambulance to rush him to the ER at the hospital, and apparently he’s already there. It would have been nice if they had always moved that fast to get him to the ER when he was alive, because there was one time when they didn’t…

    At first glance it might seem strange to rush a man no longer living to the ER… but I understood the logic involved immediately, when I considered the source. The nursing home wanted Dad out of their bed ASAP, because they can’t make money on a dead man, or at least not nearly as much as they can make money on a person who is still living. So a dead man in one of their beds must be removed immediately! Because time is money, and in this case lots of money was on the line to move as fast as possible, and get the dead body out of a bed that has far greater profit potential when a living body is in that bed! So it all makes perfect sense to me.

    Well, I guess now it’s time for me to get on over to the ER myself, before my family really thinks I’m cold hearted. Because I refused to rush to the ER with the rest of them, like they did, since why should I rush, when Dad is already gone?

    It’s times like these that I understand what Jesus meant when He said “Let the dead bury their own dead…” His words were in a different context for a different situation, but I can still see a parallel meaning here in our situation. I understand why the rest of my family has immediately rushed out to the side of the bed in the ER, where my Dad is now, even though my Dad died before the ambulance was called to take him there. It’s because they’re heartbroken and grief stricken. I also understand that members of my family, and most of all, my Mom, need my love and support right now.

    But although I won’t put this into words they can hear, I don’t think that they understand that for me, my Dad died over a year ago, when his magnificent mind and personality died, even though his frail body, once so powerfully strong, was still breathing. Since for me, my Dad died over a year ago, I’ve already had over a year to recover from my own grief and the loss of losing him forever. Which is why I am not feeling panicked, with a frantic need to rush to the ER.

    But I’ll be going now, because my mother needs me, as well as my wife, since she is also grief stricken and heartbroken. Jean lost her own father in 1985, and my Dad treated her as if she was his own daughter. She loved him for it, he loved her in return, and now she has lost him, so she’s heartbroken.

    Love to you also, my friend, Elyse…

  45. That’s hilariously tragic! And huge kudos to your skill as a writer for being able to express it as clearly as you did. And kudos also to your depth, compassion, & humour as a human being to be able to process such profound losses on such socially- loaded days. I’m sure your departed loved ones are very proud of you.
    Perhaps you need to nominate a special day for them (like Day of the Dead) when you celebrate their lives & their passing; it may give you a little more space to feel celebratory on the regular festive days like Xmas etc?
    I’m so glad I follow this Blog from Down Under :-) gabrielle

    • Thank you, Gabrielle. I’m glad to be bloggin’ buddies with you, too.

      Writing this piece helped me immensely, it let me see the bizarre humor of it all. My family, bizarrely humorous all, would have loved it. But the curse is broken, and I am no longer terrified of illness at holidays. So that’s good!

      I do like the idea of the Day of the Dead. It would be good to scoop all the sadness into one day and enjoy the rest! Great idea. I’m going to try it.

  46. I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  47. Pingback: Hey Doc? Be Mine ♥! | FiftyFourandAHalf

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