The holidays come loaded with the preconception that it’s the time of year for miracles, that loved ones will be gathered in abundance to celebrate whatever religious holiday has brought them together, and that Santa delivers toys to the good little boys and girls, and coal to those whose resident Elf on the Shelf deemed naughty. But what happens when the deserving get coal, and the family gatherings aren’t for celebration, but for grieving? What if you find yourself without Christmas cheer? What if you had Christmas cheer, but then started reading this depressing blog post and lost it due to the cynical start that this post is turning out to have?
For many of those in my life at the moment, Christmas 2013 is not turning out to be a magical time of the year. For my family, we have gathered ourselves not for the delicious Italian spaghetti and meatballs that normally graces our table this time of year, but to ready ourselves for the inevitable: the end of a very long and brutal battle for my grandfather suffering from severe dementia. And one of the only things I keep thinking, over and over? “Thank God I’m unemployed.” Isn’t that ridiculous? Who celebrates being unemployed, living in their parents house back in their home town that they have very vocally stated hatred for since the dawn of time while they wait to hear back from potential employers? So yes, I may not have Christmas cheer this year, but I am still trying my best to find the ‘good’ this season. Though I’m finding coal in my stocking, I’m thankful that I’m actually home to receive this coal. Because if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have this time to say goodbye, I wouldn’t have the time to be there for my adorable grandmother, and I know that I won’t have regrets years down the line that I wasn’t here for my dad’s side of the family like I was for my mom’s when we were in a very similar situation 8 years ago. That’s what the holidays are for me this year: precious time with my family. And you know what? I’m learning something.
I have stated time and again that I believe I will never be getting married, that I don’t believe there is a single person out there who will tie themselves to me voluntarily and deal with my crazy shenanigans. But watching my grandmother sit so dedicated by the side of her husband who is no longer able to speak loving words to her, I’m inspired. Well, not so inspired that I’ll change my anti-marriage belief, but I’m grateful to witness the fact that there are still people in this world who love unconditionally. Though this example of unconditional love comes in the form of a marriage that has lasted over 65 years, there are other types of unconditional love out there that are just as meaningful and steadfast. If your holidays are turning out to be less jolly this year, remember that-there are people in your life who would bend over backwards for you. So while the holidays this year aren’t so cheery, the Christmas tree that finally got put up in the Penland household turned out to be moldy (said Christmas tree sat dying for 5 days in the garage because we were all so busy we forgot it. It might have been better off hanging with the trucks. But then again, had that happened we wouldn’t have discovered that bleach in Christmas tree water kills mold without killing the actual tree. Sorry PETA.), and I’ve been spending my days creepily taking photographs of the lucid moments between my grandparents, I’m grateful to have so many wonderful friends and family in my life. It’s cheesy, it’s cliche, but that’s how I feel. Consider this to be the Christmas card that I didn’t send out this year: I love you!