This holiday season has been a rough one. What is the deal with Christmas and bad things happening?
Normally, the month of December seems to fly by. By the time it's Christmas day, it feels like we're still in the first week of December. This year, that was not the case...but more on that in just a bit. We're going to go back to last Christmas, then this one.
Christmas 2010. My first Christmas with my wife and our oldest son. I was really excited and it was nice to spend the holiday with them. The down side was...we were broke. We didn't get to put up a tree or any decorations, and we had no money for presents for the young one. We ended up spending the holiday with my in-laws at their house. They bought a few presents for the kid, we got to decorate their tree...it was going to be nice. Or so I thought. Oh, how I was WRONG.
See, my in-laws are more than just a little crazy. The holiday breaks down like this...The time was spent with them ignoring me (as usual), MIL trying to run me over with their Suburban, MIL leaving the three of us out in the icy cold rain in downtown Dallas for over half an hour, MIL dragging us to a mall to look at an annoying and boring train display, and pretty much them both being bitchy and annoying about/towards me. The kid enjoyed it, so it was worth the stress...but never again!
This Christmas was going to be so much better. We had some money for presents and we were going to spend the holiday at home, just the 4 of us, then in the afternoon, my parents were going to come over for a while to celebrate as well. It looked very promising. We had a new tree put up with pretty purple, blue, and white lights. By the end of the first week of December, I had all my shopping done for my wife. I was REALLY looking forward to seeing her open all her presents. I had pulled some strings (and that's all I'm gonna say about that) and gotten some extra money, and I was able to get her the Kindle Fire that she had recently been obsessing/drooling over, along with a case, $40 Amazon gift card, and a subscription to Amazon Prime. There were other presents as well...A couple pairs of pretty earrings, a shiny ring, a custom made charm bracelet with our names and birth stones as charms, some eyeliner, and copious amounts of chocolate. This was going to be an amazing Christmas, and I was uber excited. The days just seemed to drag on, like when you are a kid. It was seeming to take forever for the days to pass. We shopped for the kids, and presents started coming in, getting wrapped, and put under the tree.
Then came the phone call from my mother on December 16th. She said that my grandfather was back in the hospital, and the doctor had turned off his pacemaker and defibrillator. A quick call to my cousin that usually has more accurate information confirmed that he's in the hospital, but they haven't turned the devices that are keeping him alive off...they are planning on doing that tomorrow after he has a chance to say goodbye to close family.
While I am pacing back and forth while still on the phone with my cousin, my wife gets home with the kids. She can tell right away that something is up, so she just stands there looking at me, waiting for me to give her an idea of what's going on. I get off the phone and we decide to pack up and go to see him tonight, instead of waiting until the next morning to make the trip. After packing up and a long trip, we arrive at my uncle's house (he lives next door to my grandparents) at almost midnight.
I was planning on going up to the hospital as soon as we got unpacked, so I could sit with my grandmother and spend a little time with the man that was so like a father to me. My cousin tells me that my other uncle is at the hospital, so I decide to stay and get some rest. Due to my shoulder hurting, I ended up spending the night sitting up in an old rocking chair reading a book while my wife and kids slept. I decided to get up and dressed around 6:30 am. After showering and getting dressed and ready to go to the hospital, I go out into the living room. My uncle waves me over quietly and tells me that my grandfather passed away at 2AM.
The news hit me like the proverbial ton of fucking bricks. I was too shocked to react. I simply said, "OK," and asked about my grandmother. She had come home after he passed to lay down and rest. I went into the bedroom to wake my wife and tell her the news. After a few minutes, I went outside to call my mother, who was still at home, and give her the news. After a few rings, a groggy, just awoken voice came on the line offering a gruff "Hello?" This is the day I told my mother that her father had died.
She was at first in disbelief. She accused me of being horrible and dishonest with her. Then came the uncontrollable sobbing and wailing. After communicating where everyone would be and what all was going on during the day, she gave me a time when she would be there and the call was disconnected.
Later that day is when the horrible truth hit me. The last time I saw my grandfather, around Thanksgiving, he asked me to look after my grandmother and make sure she was ok. I gave him my word. I found out that my other uncle that was at the hospital with my grandmother, he couldn't handle watching my grandfather pass, so he left and went home. My grandmother was at the hospital alone when her husband of 61 years passed away. I had failed at keeping my promise to my grandfather. This is something that is going to eat at me for the rest of my life.
I will leave out the part of the story where my mother acted like a horrible child at the funeral home, at the viewing, and again at the funeral and burial site. It pisses me off entirely too much, and I prefer not to think about that. Here is a snippet from my wife's blog about what happened: "Speaking of narcissists and attention-seekers though, I was truly horrified at my mother in law’s behavior at the pre-viewing, viewing and funeral. She really called upon all of her dramatic flare in the attempt to wrench the body from the coffin, faint and insist that a doctor needed to be called for her “just sleeping” daddy. Wow. Really, just wow. What a way to make a scene."
From that moment on, I rarely left my grandmothers side. I went to the funeral home and helped her make arrangements and pick out a coffin. I stood by her side the entire time during the viewing to make sure she was ok and wasn't standing the entire time. I sat with my hand on her shoulder during the entire funeral service. At her request I even went down to the plot and made sure they were putting him in the right spot. (The headstone is already on the site, but he wanted to be put in a different spot about 10 feet over...we had marked it a couple days before.) I also watched and made sure they lowered him in his grave gently and put the earth over him also at her request. I never let her see me break down or even shed a single tear. I was the rock that she could lean on.
We had to come home for a day after he passed, to get more clothes and some work my wife had to get done before Christmas break. While we were home we opened presents. It was nice, but there was a certain gloom that hung in the air for me. I enjoyed watching my family open their presents, and I love the presents I got. It just didn't seem a happy occasion.
Life has since carried on, but it is difficult. I feel like a part of me is missing. I know the pain will lessen with time, but it will never fully go away. I love all my gifts, but the one thing I wanted most...was to see my grandfather and tell him "I love you" and that I am and always will be proud that he was my grandfather. I am proud to have my youngest son named after such a great man.
Here are a couple of posts from my social networking site because I just don't have the strength to keep writing. The pain is still too close to my heart....
"At 2am this morning the world became a lesser place. You lived a long and hard life, and accomplished much. You held on long enough to see all of your great grandchildren. Your suffering is over as you begin the greatest journey of all. We are all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth 'til death. We travel between the eternities. Rest now Orval D. Himes. I will miss you and think of you always."
"This is proving to be infinitely more difficult than I imagined. The overwhelming burden of guilt and sadness that my grandmother was alone when he passed. I should have been there...not just assumed that someone was there. In a few hours is the arduous task of taking my grandmother to the funeral home to make the arrangements. I don't know if I'll be able to hold back the tsunami of emotions that will certainly be trying to flood out. I must be stalwart and unyielding, the rock that she will certainly need to lean on. I just want to weep...to curl up in a corner and cry like a baby. I can't believe he's really gone."