The first Christmas without Mom and Dad
December 24, 2013 by Thomas Wictor
This is the first Christmas without Mom and Dad.
What I feel mostly is strangeness. When you get to be old yourself—I’m fifty-one—it’s incredibly bizarre to no longer have access to people who were there your whole life. Dad’s dying process was so sudden, unnecessary, and ghastly that when he finally passed away, it was a relief. Mom put Tim and me through the mill, saying things like, “I know you want me to eat, but I won’t. What do you think of that?”
I knew in April that she wouldn’t make it, so I was prepared emotionally. Still, it was six months of total hell capped by a second unnecessary, ghastly death. Both my parents refused to face reality, but reality is indifferent to whether or not you want it as a guest. It barges right in, the way it did with Mom and Dad.
Don’t think I’m indifferent. I had a full-fledged mental collapse on October 28, 2013. October 29 was better. Now, all that’s left is strangeness and melancholy.
Here’s Mom on Christmas Day of 1970.
She and Dad got only a couple of hours of sleep, since they were up all night assembling bicycles and wrapping presents.
There doesn’t exist a single photo of Dad as an adult taken on Christmas Day. I know why, but this isn’t the time or place to get into it. I’ve already said as much about it as I want. So instead, here’s a photo of Dad, Tim, and Paul checking out a tractor.
It must be around 1963. Mom’s handwriting on the back says Paul is making brrrrm-brrrrm noises.
I’ve never liked Christmas. When I was a kid I liked the presents, and I liked Christmas lights. But I always felt that there was something missing. As an adult I came to realize that connection was the missing element. We went through the motions and had all the trappings, but we couldn’t make it real.
The best Christmas Day I ever had was in 1989. I spent it with a British woman named Lynne. The connection we shared was a one-time deal. It was truly magical. Carmen always went home to celebrate Christmas with her family, so we never experienced one together. I wonder what would’ve happened if we’d had the sort of Christmas Lynne and I did?
Because of the lack of connection, I can’t say that I miss my parents. I miss their presence, but we simply weren’t able to have genuine relationships as human beings. The great gift they gave me with their lives and deaths was the ability to finally cast off the last of the negativity and dross that kept me from becoming the person I always wished I could be. So I owe them for that. Everything’s easy now, because I know what’s important and what’s trash.
My brother Eric wished me a Merry Christmas and said he hopes that 2014 will be better for Tim and me. I told him that it will be better, because the only way it could be worse would be if I contracted ebola, and Tim became a Wahabbist.
Sometime in the early two thousands we all decided that we’d get Christmas presents just for my sister’s three children. Each of us adults had to shop for nine people by that point, and my parents’ health was beginning to fail. To save wear and tear on everyone, Christmas gifts became something for the kids only.
In 1973 Mom gave me one of my favorite presents ever, the book Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbinders in Suspense. I still have it.
It has terrific stories, the best being “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connnell; “The Birds,” by Daphne du Maurier; “Eyewitness,” by Robert Arthur; the absolutely unforgettable “Man From the South,” by Roald Dahl; and “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper,” by Robert Bloch.
On the card Mom had drawn two frightened, wide-open eyes. I’d asked for the book but hadn’t expected to get it, because Mom hated scary things. She saw the original King Kong when it came out in 1933. Only five at the time, she spent most of the movie sitting backwards in her chair.
In 1999 Dad made me a wooden copy of a plastic model kit. The aircraft is called a Fokker Funfdecker, which didn’t exist.
The Funfdecker surprised me as much as Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbinders in Suspense. Dad’s workmanship is quite amazing. I can’t imagine how long it took him to complete the thing. It’s about seven inches tall by six inches long, with a nine-inch wingspan.
Mom and Dad didn’t do the best they could. Not by a long shot. I’m not at peace with the life I had with them, nor will I ever be. The regret will always be there. But I don’t resent my parents. I’ve forgiven them, and I believe that things have turned out all right for them. They had hard lives and hard deaths. There’s nothing I want from them. If they still exist—and I believe they do—they need to concentrate on getting better.
And now, Mom and Dad, you both know I don’t like Christmas. How’s this for irony?
It’s gotten way out of control, so next year I’ll trim it back or maybe shave it off. Do I look like anybody up there? I mean, like you-know-who? What I should do is let my hair grow too, and then sweep it up and back into a silvery mane. Then I’ll start wearing flowing robes and speaking in a voice of thunder.
“THOU SHALT PURCHASE THE MUSIC OF SCOTT THUNES!”
I never told you this, Dad, but one thing for which I’m really, really grateful is that of all the Christmas carols you played constantly—beginning in November—you never subjected us to this one. I looked long and hard until I found a rendition that matched what it always sounded like in my head.
Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad.
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