Christmas Past

So I plod on through the days leading to Christmas.  The funny thing is that I don’t think I’m the only one, plodding along, wishing the season away.  I never really realized how many people find this a stressful time of the year.  I don’t think the only reason is loneliness either, for some I think it is financial hardship – there is significant pressure to buy, buy, buy – and when you don’t have the money it can make you feel like a real loser.  Sad that Christmas is so commercial.  Then there are those of other faiths that have to put up with all the hype and silliness.

Christmas was always a huge event at our house.  On Christmas morning, Kevin, my husband, was probably equally as excited as our children.  He wasn’t a big shopper, I did most of it, but he loved pulling off the odd surprise here and there.  Our kids, right from the time they were little, couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive.  They’d all sleep in the same room and wake up at some ungodly hour, wanting Christmas to start right then and there.  We, Kevin and I, had to develop some strategies to delay the start of the day from 6 o’clock in the morning to a much more reasonable 8 or 9 o’clock.

We came up with a few good ideas.  First, we told the kids that when they first woke up they could open their stockings.  So that gave them a few gifts as a distraction and kept them preoccupied for a half hour or so. After that, the second activity was that they had to build one of the gifts that we had given them in their stockings.  This would usually be a Lego set, as many pieces as was safe for their respective ages.  I remember one year, instead of Lego, we gave them little pipe cleaner puff ball animals to construct but didn’t read the packaging – we should have put out glue, but didn’t.  Amazing what a kid can do to make it work – it wasn’t pretty but they put together their little mutated critters so they could move onto the final required activity – making Mom and Dad breakfast.  When they were little this was obviously something simple.  As they got older, we got wiser.  We’d ask for a full blown hot breakfast.

After that the free-for-all started.  Paper flying, kids laughing, Kevin beaming and me just content, glad that it had finally arrived, and hopeful that it would be fantastic for everyone.   The phone would start to ring as friends and family called, and soon afterwards family would start to arrive at the house.  In the very early days I could have somewhere between 20 to 25 people at the house for dinner – and we’d do a full sit down dinner. Kevin thrived on the chaos and with his big voice he’d settle everybody in and start the meal off with a toast.  The food consumed and, with some having eaten too much, people would start to vanish, looking for places to stretch out and snooze off the meal – no bed was off limits.

Over the years the number of people coming to the house has dwindled, for the obvious reasons – my parents and my husband’s parents are all gone, family members have moved away or divorced – and in the last three years we lost two very significant participants in Christmas.  Two larger than life characters: Kevin, and his nephew Terry.  Gone too soon.

So this year I find myself quite detached about Christmas and with respect to the meal preparations in particular.  I view it more as a function and not with the usual anticipation I would have, but interestingly, so far it isn’t stressing me out – there will be plenty of food, and it will taste good.  At this point in time I feel a bit like an automation, emotions removed, tasks identified, activities underway.  I don’t what’s better – to feel too little or to feel too much.

This first, no that first …

I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been spinning out of control.  I have reached a point where the things I have to do have simply overwhelmed me.  They have all become important, equally important, in my mind.  Consequently, I haven’t been able to determine what to do first, what should be done first.  This is the reality of functioning on my own.

Throughout the more than 30 years of my marriage I was the primary decision-maker and accountant for the family. I made the decisions and did the follow through.  So why then, do I feel like I am drowning in the sea of responsibility?

I realize now, that although I may have made the decisions, there almost always was some sort of discussion between Kevin and me, at least for big decisions.  Kevin always had an opinion (sometimes completely off the wall) and he was never bashful about expressing it.  As a father and husband, Kevin didn’t fret about the small stuff; as long as we were safe, fed, happy and having fun, that was all that mattered.  His role in our marriage, he would often state, was to socialize and protect and mine was everything else (as long as he didn’t disagree with it).  He had little tolerance for inaction and indecisiveness, any decision was better than no decision.

After years of this type of conditioning I have become quite used to ploughing through the things that have to be done. However, it’s different with this, with settling an estate.  It’s not something that is easy or straightforward, it’s emotional and heartbreaking and relentless – there are so many things that have to be done: burial arrangements; transfers of title; changing my own Will; dealing with the various utility companies, credit card companies; and all sorts of other little one-offs that come up as the days go by.

Things have to be done, yes, but not right away.  I was reminded of this again today by my lawyer and by my sister-in-law.  I’m spinning but it’s because I’ve wound myself too tight.  I am my own worst enemy, trying to do everything and get everything settled in record time.  There’s no rush and this is something that I need to recognize for my own peace of mind, since the only one pressuring me is me. Old habits die hard.