Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


Kathy Riordan's Links

Poetry, if you like that sort of thing
Some great stuff around here
Where I've Been, Where I'm Going
What I Can't Write About
Twitter Is What You Make It
Articles on World War II
Some of my work on Iran
A little about me
I also write here
DECEMBER 27, 2011 9:00AM

Christmas, Party of One

Rate: 42 Flag



It's hard to say when my husband stopped liking Christmas.  It isn't that he hated it, exactly.  On a certain level he loved it, the 'O Holy Night' part of it, but like my father he was at an uncertain peace with it, a private war, reclined in a chair declaring, "To hall with Hallmark."

That my husband was born on Christmas Eve is likely not to have helped.  His birthday was always lost in a celebration of a bigger birthday, a babe in a manger.  Even his mother, who'd gone to the hospital to deliver each of her other children, stayed home that Chicago night she went into labor with him, her lastborn, because she refused to leave her home and family on Christmas Eve, wanting to be with children and husband and lights and tree and sense of magic and wonder.  

It will surprise many people that Himself felt this way, with generous external indications to the contrary.  Whether in spite of it or because of it, the nearly 8,000 square foot home he shared with his former wife and family was amply decked at the holidays by local florists and often hosted seasonal parties that bulged the home at the seams, glasses lifted, ornaments aplenty.  

It wasn't the simple he craved.

Even after our marriage he was known to don gay apparel and play host, raise a glass and join in chorus.  But he humbuged at most of the glitter of the holiday and was never the one to be out buying, wrapping or giving gifts, addressing or sending cards.  He was happiest listening to the silent night, in the comfort of the quiet, even within the walls of a local church finding the space a lit candle would occupy.  He stopped wanting to go north to the cold and family years before he left us, feeling displaced and melancholy, a birthday overlooked, eclipsed by uncertainty, indifference and occasional drama, never the gifts he really wanted.  Generous to a fault, the gifts he'd given seemed never to be properly appreciated or reciprocated.

And so he withdrew to that place I'd seen my father occupy in the corners of childhood, feet up in a recliner complaining about extravagance and misplaced principles, wanting to listen to Johnny Mathis or Bing Crosby or the Vienna Boys Choir and get lost staring at the star atop a tree, hypnotized by the sparkle of newfallen snow.

So it was that Christmas was celebrated in subdued fashion the last many years of our time together, perhaps a single gift exchanged, something generally with meaning attached, decorations meant to comfort and inspire but not reach an extreme.  Our attempts to move his birthday to June 24th not successful, he knew it was doomed to be forever lost to anything other than our traditional dinner out after church on Christmas Eve, and perhaps a small gift from family, a pair of scissors, a new shirt, a book, a box of fish.

We clung to the things that mattered most to us at the holiday and there was joy and love and warmth inside, peppered by eggnog and treats, the glow of candles advancing in the December half-light.

That he left us on the doorstep of the holidays seemed both comforting and cruel, but that first Christmas a year ago was still wrapped in the anesthesia of new loss and distracted by my attempt to stay north and deck all halls, bring the Byers Choice carolers out of hibernation, carry home a tree a foot taller than the ceiling, and pretend in the magic of lights and snow that a death had not occurred.

This year was different.  I returned to the southern home where we'd marked Christmas these last many years, making the journey late, and finding myself alone in a way never experienced before at the December holidays.  Even in the 'hall with Hallmark' years there was a simple truth that illuminated our joy at Christmas.  We were together.  Like the saints in Whoville, it didn't matter if it came with ribbons or tags.

There was no fixing it this year, no way to reclaim even the most brooding of husbands, committed to the earth, no way to animate a suit hanging in a closet and take it to dinner, no way to offer it even the simplest of gifts or cuddle in front of a fire.

"They don't get more dead," as my mother is fond of saying. 

It isn't that my husband didn't love Christmas.  He did.  He loved seeing the life sized Fontanini nativity displayed at the shrine in Orlando, loved singing the familiar carols of childhood on Christmas Eve, loved the candles, loved being loved and giving it.  

All now is silent.

In this quietest of Christmases, quite alone for the first time ever, I discovered a truth, a truth about the December holidays that we all celebrate communally in our way, when dawn and dusk seem almost to touch and the magic is found best in the hours when the sunlight is only hinted and remembered.  The importance of the holiday is the light, the lights on a tree, the lights of a star, the light of a candle burning in the dark against the night.  Soon the sun will reappear.  The importance of the holiday is the lightness of spirit, the lightness of heart, the lifting of a burden once shared.

The familiar song implores us to have a merry little Christmas.

Let your hearts be filled with light and light of spirit. 

Let your hearts be light.   



Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
This is a beautiful and touching piece. Hold on to the lovely memories and the light.
Lovely reminiscence and analysis.
Mesmerizingly beautiful prose, Kathy, jewelled prose, so sumptious is fills the eye, and the heart--and what a lovely discovery of truth you give us. A heart filled with light is lightness weightyenough to abracadabra our tomorrows. Thank you for this rich, and richly rewarding, meditation.
I am glad you found some comfort on this holiday. Take care.
Tidings of comfort and joy, Kathy.

Touching and heartfelt piece, Kathy. "Oh, Tidings of Comfort and Joy..." ~r
Yes, it is about the light. So well written and poignant. Thank you for reminding me what is important now that people we love move on and new babies come into the world. It is the embracing of the winter darkness and the celebration of the coming of the light. Basic. We are all in it together. Mine was an alone Christmas too but it wasn't too lonely because of messages from people like you.
Agree with the others. Touching piece penned well.
This was beautiful, a recognition of Christmas as it is for many of us, a day that marks the passage of time and offers an opportunity to remember Christmas moments spent with people we loved who are gone, like a day long mind film. You have a beautiful love story there to watch.
Beautiful words of love. My first husband died on Christmas, it wasn't his favorite holiday. We tried to go somewhere warm each year and escape from it. I try each year not to make it a blue Christmas and even though I celebrate with family and take joy in their presence, it always seems a little blue.
rated with love
best piece on grief i've ever read. larry is in the light, i believe. peace to you for a healing new year.
Much joy and peace to you, Kathy.
May 2012 provide you with an abundance of peace and prosperity. You truly are an inspiration and reading you is always comforting. Thank you.
It's a long road Kathy; one that you're navigating with a great deal of insight. All the best in 2012.
Just love, sweetheart. I'll come back later when I can type without flooding the keyboard, thank you for this. Give your pup a big hug for me.
What jlsathre said so well.
Best wishes, Kathy. May your heart see the light.
Your words are filled with grace. With Hanukkah and Christmas coinciding on the calendar this year, there's a special emphasis on the meaning of light.

A box of fish? After a couple days sitting under the tree ....
I felt everything. And hopefully, will too, see the light. Thanks, Kathy.
This is a Christmas carol, Kathy. I've become a lot like your husband was, annoyed by the fuss and bustle and materialism of the holiday, but enjoying the music and - I didn't think of it until I read it here - the lights. This piece glows for me. Thank you.
And so he withdrew to that place I'd seen my father occupy in the corners of childhood...


The familiar song implores us to have a merry little Christmas.

Let your hearts be filled with light and light of spirit.

Let your hearts be light.

i heard the familiar song this year, in pieces.
i responded a bit to it,
first time in 7 yrs since my parents died.

my sister, who gave up on the holidays,
she too heard some of that song,
less than i, i think,
but some.

thank u for this beautiful piece...
This is beautiful Kathy. How you can take the loss of a beloved husband and make it beautiful, I don't know, but it takes a skill that I honor. May all your days be merry.
My goodness but this is eloquent.

The light, yes, the light. Wherever it originates, isn't that what we all seek at this generally dark time of year.
it's a hard lesson, beautifully told.
Kathy, this was the first year I actually stayed home ...and though I was not alone, I was very much alone, lost in thought. I found myself watching the lights too.

BEAUTIFUL expression of the day.
Another lovely portrayal of your late husband. I think you are not so alone.
Magical, beautiful, lovely, heartwarming and touching. Merry Christmas.
Oh my, this must be a difficult season. I keep thinking that successful coupledom means being with someone who allows you to express every unfashionable sentiment without believing the worst of you for it. I know you miss that freedom.
Kathy, you filled my day with light from the light of your heart.

Much love.
Wise & eloquent -- I love the comfort of your words, they offer light to those of us feeling a little dark right now.
I have a weakness for the transcendent, and your experience breaks free of so many limiting influences that the holidays bring. May you continue to enjoy your memories, and may those memories take away some of the pain of your loss.
How fortunate you were to spend so many years with someone who had such a sane response to the hoopla. I am sure you miss him.
This is beautifully written and very moving.
Your ending was unexpected. I was expecting more remembrances and then you turn ever so gently into the lightness, light and your one remembrance of your dear departed husband encompasses everyone's passages this season. Tender words deeply felt. Thank you.
So beautifully expressed. Peace to you Kathy
Each of us has our reason for being and each of us have our own separate journey. Rejoice in the thought that he will return and continue on this journey to enlightenment.
Thank you for this Kathy...and I hope this next year to come is about the lights. Bright and sparkly.