Christmas is usually a time of great joy for families. After all, there are so many things to make us happy. We have time off from work; we can get together with family members. Often ones we don’t normally see in the course of our daily lives, there are presents to give and receive and plenty of fine food. For those with religious persuasion, there’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, however wrong the date of birth may be.
There is also the issue of grief and sadness. Let’s face it; it’s an established fact that dsyphoria, loneliness and, perhaps, even suicide are higher during this time of year. We recently visited my brother Greg and his family in Naples; it was a time of great delight and fun. Yet, there was also a moment of sorrow. We were at Christina’s house, she’s the youngest child, of my brother, Greg; she and her husband, Joe, created a truly incredible dinner for us. There was a fine roast, tasty veggies and very fine wine.
My mom had the seat of honour, at the head of the table, and we all dined well. As I headed back to my chair after getting my third helping, I saw that my wife, Jo Ann, was upset. I turned and saw that my mom was crying.
I did what any good son does in such circumstances. I tried to comfort her and asked what was wrong. Jo Ann explained that my mom was thinking of Stephen, my recently deceased brother.
At family gatherings like this, Stephen was always the life of the party. He’d be telling jokes and stories, asking everyone if they were having a good time and seeing everyone had a splendid time. Thinking of him brought her great heartache. My mother was unable to stop the tears for a few minutes. Jo and I did our best to ease her sorrow and she was finally able to calm down and pull it together.
My mom expressed the opinion that she might not be here next Christmas, which was yet another reason she was sad. Now it was my turn to grieve. My father taught me that if a man thinks he’s going to die on Saturday, much effort goes to making it come true.
I see age starting to take a bit of a toll on my mother. In the coming year, she’s going to have to take the full driver’s exam again. This is a new law requires of older drivers.
Mom is worried she won’t pass the test and thus lose her license. That means losing her mobility and freedom. When we came to visit, the first day we arrived, she asked me to go with her to the grocery store. I did and saw just how hard picking up simple food items was for her. She no longer has good strength in her arms or grip in her hands. Just the simple act of shopping is now tough for her, and she most definitely does not take long trips.
I am glad that we had this Christmas to be together. At ninety-one, I know that time for my mother grows short. Now, she’s in good health. She’s strong, she has no major health issues and she has her family around her. Who knows, she could easily make it to a hundred.
When she’s around Jack and Sarah, Christina’s little boy and girl, I see my mom come to life. They give her energy, life, and a reason to keep going. I sincerely hope she is here next December, and the year after that.
I’m also realistic enough to know that she might not be. Yeah, it was a good Christmas, even when we thought of Steve and felt regret and loss. It was good because we did what all families should do at this time of year: we were together to share everything.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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