The Alpha Blonde

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This article was written on 29 Nov 2013, and is filled under Check In, family.

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On Loss and Lines of Cars During the Holidays

1914-Manhattan-Bridge-Funeral-Procession

I live along the route to a cemetery, so it isn’t uncommon to see one or two funeral processions a day.  The reckless reverence of the escorts on their motorcycles speeding along in the wrong lane of traffic to catch up with the front and block the next street, the cars, headlights on all keeping enough cushion between one another in case of a sudden outbreak of tears.  From my kitchen window you can sometimes see the suits and dress shirts through their windows.  It is a strange thing to watch a line of cars heading toward a final goodbye to a loved one.  I like watching them and trying to learn something about the person by the cars going by.  Usually I come out empty-handed, but at times it’s easy- a line of beautiful classic cars, all restored and polished- clearly a car club member, probably had a shop and did all kinds of favors for friends involving bodywork or something along those lines.  Another was unique in that it was all motorcycles, and the frames of the riders’ bodies looked young, too young.  You could sense the heartbreak.

The processions around the holidays have recently started to really affect me.  It is so hard to lose a loved one anyway, but when it happens in conjunction to a major family holiday the healing process is juxtaposed against the bright colors, loud music and pushy advertisements of a season that is built upon joy and hope.  This morning I saw a line of cars and I couldn’t bear to look at the cars and the suits and the women’s jewelry flashing in the sunshine.  A funeral the day after Thanksgiving meant this family spent their holiday working through the final details, weeping together, holding hands and feeling absence.

Last night was hard for our family, too.  Last Thanksgiving my paternal grandmother was with us.  Between her birthday on December 4th, which she was fully present for and smiling and hand holding and the day after Christmas were our last few weeks with her.  The Sunday before Christmas I brought the kids to visit her and sing Christmas Carols to her.  She couldn’t speak, but I held her hand and we wept together and she managed a smile as Cary, off-key made his way through “I ain’t gettin’ nuttin for Christmas.”  Christmas Eve my dad had the wind knocked out of his substantially-large sails as he found out her condition had worsened.  We sat around the picnic table in the back yard at my maternal grandmother’s house, all holding each other tightly and crying.  Last night as we all gathered to give thanks, my dad- our family emcee and pillar of strength, just couldn’t.  He had to go outside.  For the first time in 5 years I was tasked with leading prayer, something I haven’t felt comfortable doing since my faith faltered and I left the church.

We had a full house for thanksgiving- 24 people in a little country farmhouse, half of the group were made up of the kind of family you acquire some time after birth, the ones who have seamlessly fit in with your own even though they’re from completely different family trees.  Even with all of this new energy and the joy of sharing in a holiday so personal as Giving Thanks, absence still filled the room.

After the blessing was given and everyone was set to dig in heartily to our feast- one with Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian and Omnivore considerations, my sister, myself, my husband and our close family friend Robin all walked out to make sure my dad was alright.  It’s amazing what simple hand holding, shoulder touching and presence can do in the presence of absence.  The reality is that absence will now be part of our traditions, we’ll feel it with every wise-crack made and cookie devoured.  It is another person in the room.  And until we’ve learned how to care for absence by acknowledging it with the loving detachment that comes with time-passed, it will always be difficult to maneuver around when we bump up against absence at the times when our guard is down.  And that’s alright.  No one ever said absence was a bad thing.  It’s a life thing.  It’s a science thing.  And it’s a sacred thing.

Looking at the upcoming month as we head into Christmas I know the season will take on a different look and feel for us.  This is the year without.  There’s a countdown on it.  I know each time I look out the window and see a processional this month I’ll stop thinking of the details and just close my eyes, exhale and offer them my silent support as they learn to live with absence each year as the weather changes and cools and family gathers.

 

One Comment

  1. […] I’m down another 1.2 lbs, which is an even 15 in the last 6 weeks. It also ushers me out of baby-weight completely and puts me squarely in the middle of the range of pounds that I refer to as my “grief weight”. These aren’t any ordinary Netflix with Oreos pounds, they’re the ones I accumulated while coping with the loss of my grandmother. […]

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