I love this time of year. Autumn leaves, harvests, Thanksgiving, with Christmas hot on its heels. Making lists, checking them twice, fishing out the decorations and laughing over the ones that were forgotten in last year's packing them up ... the glass pizza slice Sara bought for her dad after his heart attack, when all he wanted was pizza and it wasn't on his menu ... a bell, or a star ... putting away the normal clutter to make room for the delightful clutter that goes along with these holidays ...
... but this year is different. Daddy lived with me the last five years of his life, and those five years were a gift I cannot describe to you. Idyllic? Heck no!!! He drove me NUTS!! I would go out to the woods when he got the better of me, and rant and rave ... even called my first born and told her to come get him, I'd had it! In those five years, the lines were blurred. Parent - Child, Parent - Parent, Child - Child. Our roles overlapped, changed places, evolved. It was a time with him that let me know him better, let go of some of my childish angers which were unnecessary .. gave him time to understand me as I have become, rather than as the little kid that helped him build a garage, or shovel snow.
He was the last of the parents. Mother died in 1999, my in-laws died in 2008 and 2009 ... but Daddy was still there. My kids are grown, with families of their own ... lives of their own ... but Daddy was here. And he's not here any more.
I feel more than just a little ... lost. I'll be unwrapping the ornaments myself, and putting them on the tree. He won't be looking at each one as he unpacked it, hearing me tell him why this one or that one was important. Part of me is terrified to face the holidays without him, the glue that kept our little rag tag family together for my entire life. He was there for my kids when I wasn't. He was there for mother, when I wasn't. He rang the bell for the Salvation Army on the corner of 9th and Market in Wilmington for 30 some years ... heckling his friends on payday to pony up some money for the pot. He'd rake in more in that hour than all the other bell ringers did in weeks. He'd sing, too, he and his buddy would harmonize Christmas carols as they stood there in the weather. Long after he'd retired he could still be found at 9th and Market, ringing that bell.
But maybe, just maybe, as I go through the motions of digging out the Christmas things, making turkey stuffing the way Nana did, I will find that he's NOT really gone. He's in every little bit and piece of it.
If you're looking at the holidays and thinking how will you cope with someone missing, stop and look again. Those people are NOT gone. They're in every fiber of all you are. Smile, even through tears, and realize without all that they were, you wouldn't be what you are. That is the most perfect gift of all. That is the gift you will have forever.