Thanksgiving is the start of the big holiday season for me. I don’t go by the retail stores who apparently think late August is a good time to start thinking about trimming your tree. Nope. For me, it’s the Thanksgiving week. So, really not Thursday but all Thanksgiving week I am gearing up for it. And my Christmas tree doesn’t go up a day earlier than the Friday after Thanksgiving. Sometimes, not until the following weekend but that is only due to time constraints or finding someone to help me get the tree (husband does not help much in that area – his loss.)
I really hate when people use the excuse of the holidays to get all blue or sad. Oh poor me. Bad relationship/memories with dad, Mom, husband, wife, kids, whatever. Boo-hoo. You know what? That sadness is caused by you. If this horrible thing didn’t just happen to you, then you have had time to pick yourself, get over it, move on. I’ve had my fair share of bad things happen around these holidays. But I think I love them more than anyone else I know.
Today, November 25th, is when my Mom died six years ago. I was at home packing for our trip to San Diego to visit husband’s family for Thanksgiving when my Dad called with the news. Now, my Mom had been sick for several years so it wasn’t really a surprise. But that really doesn’t make that call any easier. My Mom had early onset Alzheimer’s. She got sick in 1997. Then had to go to a nursing home a year later. She was still physically OK at this point but unable to manage at home any longer. She and my Dad had been divorced for years at this point so it was really above and beyond for him to take care of her for this amount of time (that’s a whole other posting for the future I guess.) She needed constant care and was starting to get more and more physically ill as well.
So my brother and I had quite a few years to deal with the loss of our Mom before her actual loss. When I visited her, she would sometimes remember me and sometimes not. This is not something you can ever get used to. One of the saddest moments in my life was receiving a phone call from her, long after she was all but mentally checked out and remembering no one but my Dad, and the nurse put her on the phone and she whispered “Don’t let me stay here anymore. Don’t hang on to me anymore.” I was fairly speechless. But I told her I wouldn’t. Watching her fade was sad. She was a very vibrant woman and she would have HATED to see herself in that condition.
As she got sicker, the nursing home asked us about DNRs. Since my parents were divorced, this decision fell to her eldest child. A good thing to know for the future – DNRs are not black and white. There are all sorts of caveats. And if you don’t understand them all – they still will resuscitate even if this leaves the person in a coma. So if it is your intention to have one in place for yourself, make sure you research this. It’s a good, if morbid, thing to plan so the decision doesn’t fall to others who cannot make it. My father argued with me about this for a while. What finally got him to realize I was right was me pointing out that this is no longer Mom. She was no longer there. And if Mom fell into a coma, or needed tubes to live on as a meat body, she would absolutely not want that. And as you learn more about what Alzheimer’s does to the mind and body, you realize what will happen eventually. It’s a horrific disease.
So when my Dad called and told me that she did die, I did cry. Of course I was sad. But part of me was relieved that she was released from that hell. I know this was harder on my little brother. He argued with her a lot when she was “forgetful” and felt like crap after finding out she was sick. I don’t think he is truly over this yet.
We still went down to San Diego as my Mom’s cremations, etc was going to take a few days due to nursing home/hospital/mortuary/etc delays. That Thanksgiving was hard. Husband’s family tried very hard to comfort me without smothering me. That was nice. They are a very nice family for sure.
During this trip, a very weird evening/event occurred with one of husband’s friends and his whacked-out crazy wife. This upset me mostly because I was already upset. I’m sure on a regular weekend, I would have just smacked someone :) In a nutshell: went to his surfing friend’s house for dinner (a surgeon) with his wife (also a doctor) and their 2 kids and wife’s 20-something sister visiting from Brazil. Dinner was nice. Very fun. Nice family. They suggest going to a club to listen to some live music (Los Lonely Boys were playing.) I didn’t want to – I am tired. Much prodding and fine – I agree to not be the stick in the mud because my Mom just died (??) Surgeon drives us all to club. Lesson learned: NEVER all go in 1 car when it’s not yours – anywhere, ever. Get to crowded bar/club. Band late. Surgeon wife – has a beer. 10 minutes later surgeon’s wife has completely transformed into a freak. I am 100% convinced she took E along with that beer. No way 1 beer does that. No way. She and her sister were flying high. She attempted to put a move on me. Uh – no. If I were in a better mood, I would have brushed it off like a “Heh, sorry you got the wrong impression.” But I was not in a better mood. I told her to get the F away from me and if she doesn’t I will punch her in the face. I felt this communicated what I wanted correctly.
I think I was most annoyed that my husband saw this happen but a) didn’t really care and b) still didn’t leave when I said I wanted to leave after it happened. If this was a man that had done this – he would have FREAKED out. So I told him I was leaving even if he wasn’t. Fine – we can go. Oh but what about the others (who were by now drunk and whatever else.) Umm…take the car keys away and tell them to cab it home. Done. No, we can’t do that. So we had to round them up, have them fall down in the street on the way to the car, lose purses, etc and drive them home. Unreal. The surgeon called husband the next day to apologize. Whatever dude. Anyway…it was a rather surreal evening to a crap weekend. Husband’s family yelled at him for even taking me there at all. Ha. Also found out the wife and sister are always like this and this marriage is kinda open-ish? Ewww.
My grandmother also died around this time, in mid-December. But this was a long time ago – I was little. I do remember how sad my father was. I had never, ever seen him sad before. That leaves an impression on a little kid. Maybe it’s why every Christmas after that he felt the need to drink himself silly. He wasn’t an angry drunk or anything – but it takes the fun out of things as you grow up and see people’s unhappiness and their inability to deal with it. I think this is a main reason I spoiled my little brother as much as I could and tried to shield him from that as a little kid.
My grandfather died a few years ago in early-January. He lived a long and happy life though. I think he just wanted to get to heaven to see my grandmother :) He used to drink way too much as well. But when my grandma died, he went cold turkey. I think he decided he needed to shape up if he was getting a spot with her. He was a WWII veteran. Played the violin beautifully. He played in the local orchestra for years. He and I wrote letters back and forth every week for years and years. He was a great guy and will always be missed. I found out he died when we were in Hawaii for a friend’s wedding. I got the call a couple hours before the ceremony. That was tough. But we were there. And I soldiered through and went. Being around friends can always help you through things.
My father had a stroke in 2007. 5 in 1 night actually. He has been a big drinker for quite some time. And his health and body gave up 1 day. They said he would die. I had to sign another DNR. But his genes are frackin’ tough. He did get physically better. Completely. But the strokes mushed up his short-term memory. Ask him anything about 15 years ago and beyond. Sharp as a tack. Ask him what he ate for breakfast. Not so much. So he is in a nursing home now.
My brother – he ODed in November a couple years ago. While taking care of my alcoholic father and not telling me the details (they all live in FL and I live in CA) so as not to upset or worry me, he stressed himself out to ridiculous proportions. Some people handle stress differently. Some people are tougher. But I’m sure seeing it almost every day was just too much for a 22 yr old (and starting when he younger.) He started taking Xanax at the suggestion of a “friend”. Got hooked. Anyone who thinks pharmaceuticals aren’t just as dangerous as street drugs is an idiot.
I got the call from my Aunt. Your brother is in a coma and they say he will die. What? I broke. I’ve been closest to my brother than any family member. I helped raise him. I just talked to him the day before – how could this happen? The doctor told me that I would need to decide on a DNR and organ donation. What? I flew out to Florida. On the plane, I said no – this will not happen. He is a good kid who made stupid decisions. When we got there, I had voice mails from my aunt. He came out of his coma! What? Doctor said crazy. Unheard of – he was blue when he arrived into the ER. Found out from his nurse later that they had literally already alerted the morgue that day. He has gone through a long rehab but is doing much better now.
I don’t write this to bum me or you out. I write this as a way to show that no matter what happens, you can still move past it. You can still suck it up and move on in life and deal with things. And you don’t blame the holiday blues. You had a sucky childhood so you don’t like Christmas now – wtf? I had an ex-boyfriend who didn’t like Christmas. He said it was because it was so stressful all his life, and so fake and so blah blah blah. He had a huge awesome family who celebrated the holidays with gusto. I spent 2 of them there. Not liking Christmas was in his own head and I would not let him take me down with him. I made him celebrate. We got a small tree for his apartment. Made him go to all of his family’s functions. And he said afterwards – that it was the best holiday he can ever remember. Well duh stupid – you took the time off from being depressed about it and found something to celebrate and be happy about.
Can I make myself sad by dwelling on the sad stuff. I’m sure. But I prefer to remember all the good memories I do have of these people and smile. I don’t have a big family (well, that I am close to) so I usually invite friends over to celebrate as well. I’ve always been a big believer in my friends are my family. I can choose them :)
Plus Christmas is when husband told me he was getting me a puppy. Puppy wouldn’t be ready until first week in January (we talked them into a 12/31 pickup.) This was the best Christmas gift I could ever receive. We went to get him early in the morning on 12/31/00. I was very sick (like don’t get out of bed sick – so forgive the pic!) but nothing was stopping me from getting my puppy. We played with the puppies for quite a while and Angelus chose me. And he has been my best friend ever since.
Me and Angelus 12.31.00
It’s easy to get caught up in not enough money, not enough time, no significant other, bad significant other, bad family, etc. etc. sadness/blues. But If you open your mind and eyes and look hard enough, you can always find something to be happy about too. To be thankful for. So look for it.