I am reaching the end of Christmas Break, and it has been a different kind of break this year.
Some of it was spent cleaning. As I have noted to many people, my condo looks like the inside of a storage locker. Many, many things from mom that has been sitting around for months until I had time to look at it and decide:keep, giveaway, donate, throw out.
Christmas was a new experience. A few weeks prior, my brother, sister, and I had discussed that they were going to be busy on Christmas Eve at the in-laws, and that my niece and nephew were with their mom on Christmas Day. We all amicably decided to postpone Christmas (it is this coming weekend).
That meant for the first time, I had no obligation on Christmas. Keep in mind, in our family, Christmas used to be the bash of the year: There were often upwards of 30 people crammed into the house or at Gram’s place. But this year: nothing. And I realized that there were going to be years like this from now on.
I had considered traveling. Because of the cleaning involved, I opted against that … I am saving my travels for the summer or next Christmas (maybe both).
I was, oddly, not the least bit down about this. I felt it very liberating. I could do whatever I wanted!
I wasn’t swelling on it, but as the day approached, I decided something simple: I decided to get back to the movies. I do like my films, and really hadn’t seen a film in months since Ed dragged me out of the condo for my own good. I figured it will be a nice quiet Christmas night. There is an upscale multiplex with VIP balcony seating and a nice restaurant attached. That was my gift to myself.
First: I tried taking my VIP pass, but found out that since The Hobbit had been out for several weeks (apparently), it was not being shown in the VIP theaters. No problem, I bought my ticket and then up to dinner. I arrived at the desk, and when I informed the hostess that no, I didn’t have a reservation, she said she would try and squeeze me in. If the place were anymore mobbed the organized crime division would have been needed. My initial thought was “GO HOME AND CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AND LEAVE ME IN PEACE!” I was seated at 7:02, placed my order at 7:05, and got my meal at 7:40 with genuinely profuse apologies from the waitress. The movie was disappointing.
I’m not sure why I wasn’t feeling sadness or loneliness or such. I think part of it is that I spend considerable time in solitude already.
One of the deeper moments I had this year occurred toward the end of summer. My father’s uncle is still alive … he is in his late 70s and still working (he does something with supermarkets and supply, and some of the markets he travels to are in the worst parts of Chicago. He is a gutsy guy!) He and I are the last big White Sox fans in the family, and I like to take him to at least one game a year. I got hold of some really nice seats, and we had a chance to just sit and talk. He eventually got around to asking me why I never married. I told him that I really never felt compelled in my adult life to find anyone, and that I really never felt I would make a good father. He looked at me and said “Good for you … it is far easier to have been alone your whole life then to have to get used to it after being married for so long”.
You need to know that my uncle (I think this is genetic) never talks about his personal life with anyone. He had been married to a wonderful woman for many years. She died about 20 years ago. Given that the males in our family don’t live much past 65, he likely figured that this was something he never had to deal with. This was the first time (to my knowledge) he had ever opened up with how difficult it had been for him. I suspect that his views are not predominant. Being the kind of guy he is, I bet it has been tough. Losing a spouse has to be enormously tough. But I know people who have gotten over it and moved on. I know that it is possible.
Sorry for the long segue there.
I think that what also makes a Christmas like this bearable is that I knew I could have picked up my phone at any moment and talked to any number of friends, and that I could have asked for an invitation to Christmas dinner, and that this would have been welcomed. I could have likely hopped a plan to Cleveland or Denver or Seattle and been welcomed with open arms (maybe concern that there wasn’t enough turkey), but still, open arms.
I have been ever grateful for my friends and extended family, and without y’all I would not have made it through 2013 as well as I did.
Here is hoping 2014 is better for all of us.