This year at Christmas

When I look at the date of my last posting I again can’t help but think where the hell does time go?? Sometimes days can drag on forever and yet in the blink of an eye we have passed Thanksgiving, Christmas and soon to be New Year’s. Incredible. This entry is about the experience that was Christmas…

This year T and I flew to California as we do every other year to see his family for the holidays, but we didn’t go the distance to Catalina. Instead we set up camp in the Residence Inn in Redondo Beach to be with his dad who has been recovering from a stroke and other health issues. At first there was a possibility that we might go to Catalina for a day or two to help pack his parents’ condo, and I was more than willing to do that because it would have been our last chance to see it before they moved. As it turned out his brother and sister-in-law went instead, and T kept his dad company in the hospital for two days while they performed more tests on him. It was an uncomfortable space to be in: feeling cheated out of not getting our beautiful island escape, underlying/unspoken concern for his dad’s health, and at times helplessness because nothing could be done to console his mom out of her growing anxiety and sadness over, well, everything. I found myself playing hours of Scrabble online, watching all Christmas movies on cable television, and talking to my own family members about the situation. I think you would call that distraction. On the night we opened presents,  T’s older sister was explaining the meaning behind the “family” present and she became emotional, which led to more tears from his mom, which led to tears from his dad and so on.  Normally I cry at the IDEA of crying, but in this moment I didn’t know what to think given that all the years that I have been part of this family, I had categorized them as the family that dealt with everything without tears. Honestly. Yet here we sat as tears flowed, and I had nothing. It was as if the moment belonged to them and I had the privilege to witness it but not participate.

Several days later we found ourselves back in Kansas City celebrating the actual Christmas day by ourselves since T was on call. Overall it was a low key day.  We passed the hours with lots of much needed sleep, followed by food and a warm fire. It wasn’t until two days ago that we found out on Facebook of the passing of an amazing family friend, who somehow manages to leave this lasting impression on you even though you have only really spent a few Thanksgiving nights together, and exchanged Christmas cards over the years. That’s when my tears began to flow. The Sunday before I had led the youth group in writing letters of support to the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, explaining before our moment of silence that their (the survivors’) Christmas would be so much different than ours. But here I sit now disproving that statement because  let’s be honest, a loss is a loss, and no one can say to you that their pain is worse than another person’s pain. This sense of loss that I feel is not just about the passing of our friend, it’s the loss of the carefree island days on Catalina, the passing of holidays spent without seeing my parents, and a sense of urgency to make up that time since we do not know what next Christmas will bring.

I have been working on this posting for several days and I decided that I needed to write about a happy memory with Susan. I first met her at Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 when T and I started dating. This was a big deal to be invited to the Medlins for Thanksgiving so I was nervous. But I walked in the door and was welcomed by these really great people–Ray, Betty, Jim, Sue, Paula, and Kristy (Travis’ sister). Immediately Sue reminded me of a Stevie Nicks/hippie/free spirit poetic type. She loved to read anything out loud–as most teachers do– was a fantastic Monopoly player, and she introduced me to the wonderful world of pairing a wine with a cheese. We only saw each other on Thanksgivings for several years after that and then we moved to Kansas. We did keep in touch via Christmas cards and FB, and even from far away I could sense her presence. I don’t know why her passing has left such a mark on me, but I do know that she was a wonderful person who certainly lived life to the fullest, exactly how she wanted to live it. May she rest in peace, and continue to touch the lives of those who were fortunate enough to know her in this lifetime.