Tuesday, December 24, 2013
A number of weeks ago now I was feeling a rush of excitement and joy after buying new Christmas decorations for our new home. We've had the same decorations for years and with our new house I wanted a change. Throwing out the old pink and purple decorations I'd paired with silver, I bought bright blue and gorgeous white ones in their place. I love our new 'formal' tree. It suits our house perfectly.
The previous owners left behind a Christmas tree (we checked - they didn't want it back), so the boys decorated that one too. The tree is more reminiscent of the Christmas trees of my youth: purple, red, green and gold baubles with multi-coloured lights and brightly coloured tinsel. It's beautiful. Sometimes I think that I perhaps like it even more than our 'formal' tree. It feels ... homey. Very Christmasy. Made even more so because the boys' homemade (or school-made) decorations also adorn the faux pine branches. Completing our 'new look' decorations is the royal blue tinsel hanging in our kitchen and beautiful, shiny silver cones shaped like Christmas trees in our lounge room. I have blue candles that smell like fresh linen on one cupboard. There's even silver tinsel decorating the front porch and a new white, blue and silver wreath attached to the front door.
At one point, as I was walking around the house admiring our decorations, the memory of my dear Dad popped in to my mind. Specifically, I thought, My first Christmas without Dad here. I did the thing I do a lot these days when I think about my Dad: I immediately measured how I felt, thinking of him. Did I feel sad? Less sad than the last time I thought about him? Would Christmas not feel so special this year? The answer at the time was firstly, I didn't feel too sad. Perhaps I felt less sad than when I'd previously thought of Dad. And would Christmas not feel special this year? No. It still felt special. I was still excited about it. And I felt glad, because I really want my kids to enjoy their first Christmas in our new home.
However, within the week, after the initial joy of decorating had worn off, thoughts of my Dad not being around this Christmas started to fill my head. Before too long, I felt great sorrow at the thought. This sort of surprised me in a way, because a) I felt I was finally coming out of my thick fog of grief over losing my father; and b) I've only actually spent a few Christmases with my parents over the years since we moved from Perth to Sydney in December 1995 - I guess I thought that missing Dad at Christmastime wouldn't feel so acute.
But here's the thing: knowing Dad is there, even though I'm not with him - as has been the case for many Christmases over the years - is different to knowing that he's not there at all. My sadness is magnified because I know how him not being there this year will be difficult for my dear Mum, my sister and family.
It's another 'first' since his death, I guess. I've already had my first birthday without him. His first birthday since he died has come and gone, and this will be our first Christmas without our Dad/Husband/Grandpa.
The good news is, as Christmas draws nearer now, I feel more prepared emotionally. I guess the shock of the sudden thought that he wouldn't be here has now passed, and the excitement my boys feel for Christmas tomorrow is intoxicating and impossible to ignore. Besides, I'm busy making shopping lists and sorting out what presents 'Santa' will leave - my mind is a jumble of plans.
Also, knowing that my dear Mum will be in good hands on Christmas Day - my niece and her husband are hosting Christmas lunch this year - is comforting. Last year was difficult for my Mum because Dad was in the nursing home for Christmas and she was only able to visit him rather than spend the day with him. I'm not sure it will be the case, but I hope that this year will be at least a little less difficult for her, as I'm sure she feels he is with her (she has said she always feels he is around) and the guilt of not being able to be with him won't plague her this year.
I've thought about what I wish for this Christmas. My wishes are simple: that firstly, we'll all get through the day as best we can this year. That everyone who is without - whether it be friends, family, a home, someone to share the day with - find a little joy on the day, or at least some comfort from somewhere/something/someone. That my family and friends all have a happy Christmas and wonderful, healthy and joyous 2014.
And that you do too.