I remember seasons of having more growing up when Daddy had a steady income, good health and strong hands to keep him in business.
I remember Christmases where gifts were plentiful and knowing that he might have gone overboard. Again.
Maybe it was because of the divorce, or his way of saying, “I’m sorry.” But, mostly it was because he loved giving his girls gifts and would do anything for us.
Years went by and things changed like they are supposed to, we moved off, married, and started families of our own. We began our own quest to make the holidays sparkle for our children while clinging to the good memories we had of our glittery Christmases and receiving basically the same gift or shirt, just in different colors.
Dad’s hair turned a shade of silver he couldn’t cover up and his body showed signs of pain. His fast paced living had slowed him down in a noticeable way that was so hard to ignore, or not panic when we saw him. Gift giving became a stress to him because he wanted to be in a place to give more. We even begged him not to get us, or our kids, anything. But, he wouldn’t have any of that.
My Grandma always purchased things for us year round, she would wrap it up and hide it in a closet and every year we would have the little things to open that made her think of us. A piece of jewelry with our monogram and things that named us- this is who you are and you are mine. Her staple was always gloves, scarves, and underwear, the kind that went all the way up to your bellybutton.
Later we had forgetful Christmases where she couldn’t remember where she hid things so it was never a surprise if we came to visit in March and she had a few Christmas gifts for us to open then. We would enjoy our Christmas in March and drive home with our girls smelling like lavender from the lotion she bought them.
She kept buying things, knowing that someone that she loved might need them or want them. She bought gifts for the unnamed, the ones that she knew she loved, but couldn’t recall their names.
Forgetful Christmases became the norm. I wore jewelry that she gave me when she remembered me better. I remember looking at her beautiful face despising the ugly disease that removed my name and memories from her mind. The only way I can describe Alzheimer’s is this: retracing steps hoping that somehow you’ll remember and misplacing things and people that meant something to you. You just don’t know where to go to search for them. But you search anyway.
This will be my first Christmas without my Dad and my Grandma. Honestly, I’m trying not to prepare for how I might feel. I’m just giving myself room to feel whatever it is at the moment, maybe it will be sweet with moments of salty sadness and laughing about stories from the past while missing them terribly. Maybe I’ll sneak off to a room, shut the door, and cry because I don’t want anyone to see me. I’m not really sure what it will be like, but I have extended just enough grace to allow myself to feel whatever it is without apologies.
I will not miss our Christmases with plenty, not one bit. I will miss our forgetful Christmases and the million ways they said, “I love you” in the things they did. I will miss seeing one of the kids open packages of really big underwear that would never, ever ride up because they were practically shorts. I’ll miss tiny gloves in all different colors and the warm heart who bought them. I’ll miss the way she made certain foods that I swear she added an extra ingredient of magic, because as hard as we try we can’t make it taste just like hers. But, we will keep trying hoping that one day ours will taste like unforgettable magic to the ones we love.
I’ll miss the way she said very little because she was drinking all of us in and the way she covered her mouth when she laughed really hard.
I’ll miss the way Dad loved his grandkids and wanted to give them everything, just like he did for us growing up. And, even though I hated it then, I’ll miss the way he handed me a card and then would swear because he forgot something. I’ll miss the way he said, “I love you, babe” while treating me like I was fifteen and brainless in moments where he wanted me to remember something that he thought was important. Most of the time it was something about the tires on my car and how I needed to take better care of my leather seats.
This Christmas I will most likely forget a gift or two, or end up late to that Christmas party because my head and my heart are a little scattered.
Most of the time I feel truly joyful. Then there are the moments when my brow switches from relaxed to worried as I choke back tears because of empty seats around the dinner table and how I’ve misplaced the feeling of home.
I know I will feel joy because I feel it now.
I know I will ache at times because I am aching now.
I know I will be grateful because I feel so wrapped up in gratitude now.
But, I know I will miss our forgetful Christmases the most and that’s okay.
I pray that you will make a few things that taste like magic and laugh so hard you have to cover your mouth.
I pray you will mark perfection off of your list and teach your children how to act gracious when they open a package of ginormous underwear that makes their face turn shades of red.
I hope you’ll forget a few of those things you pinned on Pinterest to try and impress everyone and opt for an unforgettable Christmas where you drink all of your loved ones in and whisper prayers of gratitude for the ones that you’ll miss.
Much love to you, I’m so very thankful for you.