Three of my children were born within the 6 weeks after Christmas. Each of those years, I remember, around the beginning of March, thinking, "I'm ready for a Christmas do-over. Who's game?" It's hard to celebrate Christmas when you are tired, at least a little uncomfortable, and everything is overwhelming and emotional. Oddly enough, the Christmases that I had a baby who was just over two months old, I was ready for all the holiday hoopla. I know I wasn't getting much sleep then, but I also know I'm not misremembering. I found my Christmas to-do list from right after Ducky was born and it is awe-inspiring. That just goes to show how much emotions can drain you or build you up. This holiday season seeks to prove the point.
My dad lost his 4.5 year battle with acute myelogenous leukemia just after midnight on November 23rd. My brother and I had just gone to bed in rooms right next to his. My step-mom had walked to the kitchen for his medication, and in that short time he died. We found him moments later, simply still. I'm certain he didn't want any of us there when he actually died and so he made sure that was how it happened.
The next few hours were surreal, culminating in the moment a man and woman in suits wheeled my father's quilt-covered body out of the house as I watched in my pajamas. Later that day I drove 2.5 hours home, and the next day I went to church. There were people, words, and hugs, and I was numb.
Then it was Thanksgiving and the day after we drove back down to Hampton. Dad didn't want a funeral or a real memorial service. We just had an open house. Some family came down from New York and neighbors came over and had some refreshments. We didn't really talk about Dad, I'm not sure why. After everyone else left, the family made a couple toasts and that was it. The rest of the family went out for dinner, but Hubby and I needed to take our over-tired children to bed before they had meltdowns. It's hard when your children's physical needs trump your emotional needs, but to some extent, that is the essence of parenting.
I've run through a gamut of emotions. I am so relieved that Dad is out of pain and in a better place. I am in awe at the things God did in the final weeks of my Dad's life. I'm angry because Dad will never hold the baby I am carrying now. That greedy devil, leukemia, has taken so much.
I'm sad. I miss my dad and I see all these milestones rolling toward us that Dad would have loved to be a part of and he won't be here. Polar Bear is talking about buying his first car. He wants to buy a fixer-upper before he has a license and use it as a project to learn on. How cool is that? Dad would have been thrilled to help him with that.
I am exhausted. Most of my children seemed to be allergic to sleeping for the first two years of their lives. I am familiar with exhausted. This goes beyond that. Sleep doesn't lift this exhaustion. I am normally an extrovert. Right now, though I can put up a good front, as soon as people are gone, I am even more exhausted. The only exceptions are my children, my husband and a few close friends who are family. Everyone else draws what little energy I have left right out of me.
I'm also incredibly frustrated because people are uncomfortable with my sadness. They say, "Don't focus on what you've lost. Look at all the good things you had with him. He will always be with you." Yeah. I know. I've gone through hard things before. Eventually loss becomes part of your life story and not the center of your life. I also know I'm not there yet and being told to look at the bright side is not helpful. I had five years to get through denial and bargaining. I think it might take a little more than a month to move past depression. We may skip around through those stages of grief for a bit, but acceptance will come. All those years of crisis counseling do come in handy at times like this.
I keep thinking of Lazarus. Jesus himself wept when He learned that his beloved friend Lazarus had died. Jesus knew He could raise his friend from the grave, yet his heart broke and Jesus wept. I am a sad daughter, missing my dad and trying hard to be present enough to be a good mom, wife and friend. Right now, I'm sad and that's right where I need to be. I know I will see Dad again. I know we have a lot of memories to treasure. I just don't want to shove this grief down and have it come out later, uninvited and at the worst time.
So, most people exhaust me and some have this aggravating need to insist I focus on happy thoughts. With that and the fact that I have developed a knack for offending all sorts of people in my cranky exhaustion, Hubby and I have declared a period of family hibernation. He's taking the weeks of Christmas and New Year's off. We may go out for fun activities as a family, do some projects around the house, run off to Bermuda, hang out in our jammies and play board games, or all of the above. We probably won't do any school work. We may not even go to church. We can't grant peace on Earth, and I've already stated I am running out of goodwill toward men, but we can grant ourselves time and space to recuperate. That's exactly what we are going to do.