This an entry taken from pages called Letters From A Son
Before going further, I admit these were tough times. It was winter and finances were tight. Our house was situated in a mid-block location on a quiet street towards the edge of our town. Outside, the nighttime sky was scented with the aroma of burning fireplaces. It was Christmas and all was quiet.
Most had already celebrated the holiday’s events. Children slept in their beds with new toys while parents cleaned up wrapping paper or sat peacefully content on their couches to revel in the joy of what this day means.
Our living room was decorated with tiny clear lights, which glistened against the deep burgundy colored walls. The Christmas tree was decorated with tinsel, ornaments, and twinkling clear lights with green wires that wove around evergreen branches. There were Christmas socks for everyone in the home that hung along the white banister along the staircase.
The time was well after midnight and I was settled on the couch. All the decorative lighting glowed in a warmly dim gleam. In my hand, I held a cup of tea, which I drank to fight off the lingering remnants of a relentless flu. Upstairs, my wife slept after a brief interaction in a hospital emergency room. Apparently it was her turn to have the flu.
We were in the middle of our toughest time. Our finances had fallen out from beneath us. There were too many questions, to which we had no answers. Our connection with family had been somewhat severed as a result of angry words, which neither party resigned with apologies. There was no one there but us. There was no one around to offer us a life-line in our time of need or help in any way. It was only us and nobody else.
As I sat on the couch in the living room, the television flashed its picture across the screen, causing the dull electric blue flicker to softly brighten up the room of a sleepy house. As I recall, the picture was Jesus of Nazareth with Robert Powell as Jesus. Olivia Hussey played the part of Mary and Anne Bancroft played the part of Mary Magdalene.
I never had Christmas a kid. I have been to Christmas parties and spent time with friends and families that kept Christmas trees in their home. I have been part of Christmas celebrations, but I never sat in a room of home, which belonged to me, and felt the red velvety warmth that comes with this holiday.
I never had so little as I did then, but yet, I never had so much either. In a word, I was born unto something I had never felt before. Although my heart was heavy for so many reasons; I was ill and feverish, I had no money nor was there any relief in sight—yet in spite of these times, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and hope.
As a scattered snow flurry began, I took to the large and decoratively lit bay window of my home. I sat at the window to see the sights. I looked out at an old tree across the street from my home. I refer to this tree often and with good reason. I saw this tree on a daily basis and referred to it as my friend, The Old Tree.
Regardless to situation, weather, or the opinion of others, The Old Tree stood in its spot for several decades. More than partially dead with only a few live branches, The Old Tree was not a neighborhood favorite. However, The Old Tree was my favorite. He was my friend and I chose to see The Old Tree as a symbol of endurance.
My previous experience with Christmas time was felt with a heavy heart. The Old Man passed on December 19th, 1989. I was only sober for six months when he passed. And since Christmas and New Year’s sort of intertwine—the holiday season was laced with a sense of mournful sorrow. And since I held this sorrow as sacred; I was too afraid to let it go. I did not want to let go of the heartbreak. I did not want to let go of the sadness because I was afraid that if I did let go, this would mean The Old Man was truly gone.
Whether my feelings were accurate or irrational; I felt that if I let go of the guilt, or if I let go of the pain and allowed the melancholy to slip away; if I were relinquish the somber memory of losing The Old Man and surrender the pictures in my head of his final days—somehow, this would be disloyal to his memory.
I never had a Christmas before this one. I never felt the holiday spirit or owned a Christmas tree and decorated the house. I never sat in a room after all the decorations were up with a warm cup of soup and looked around to see this form of amazement.
Towards the end of my Mother’s life, I watched her final years pass as she was uncomfortably alone and uncomfortably in pain. Similar to me, my Mother refused to let go. She once told me, “I’m too afraid to let go of the pain.” And by pain, my Mother was not only referring to the emotional; she was referring to physical pain as well.
In the last years of her life, my Mother endured the pain of several different spinal diseases. She was nearly crippled, hunched, and certainly not the woman I knew. The roles in life had reversed. It was my turn to care for her and she was far from easy. She was frustrated and lonely. She was angry and forgetful. My mother was in pain and on several different pain medications, which in reaction is a part of what spiraled my Mother to her end.
In my mother’s own words, “I’m too afraid to let go of the pain.”
I felt this way for a very long time. I can attribute this to my depression. I can relate this to my feelings of loss and regrets. I too was afraid to let go. More importantly, I was afraid to feel the anticipation of, “What if the pain comes back?”
In cases like this, the anticipation and fear of the pain is frequently worse than the pain itself.
Pain is something I can process. Pain is something I understand and I use this understanding because pain is also a motivational tool.
Here it is, August. The humidity has been so incredibly thick lately. The heat index has been off the charts. So much so that we needed a thunderstorm to roll in and break the tension.
I find myself looking forward to the autumn months. I’m looking forward to the frost and pumpkin spice coffee. I’m thinking about the upcoming holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. More accurately, I am thinking about Christmas. I am thinking about the seasons’ first snowfall.I am thinking how wonderful my life can be should I choose to live it to the best of my ability.
I remember my Mother and Father very well. I remember their love, and most of all, I remember what my Mother told me when The Old Man passed.
She told me, “Dying is a part of living, son.”
My Mother was right.
Life moves without regard or consent. I moved too. I am no longer living in that mid-block location. My friend The Old Tree is gone now. He was cut down a short while after I moved away. This does not mean The Old Tree is gone. This is not the case at all. Same as The Old Tree’s lessons of endurance remain deep within my heart—so do the lessons and memories I have of my Mother and Father.
I realize now that I do not have to feel pain or display my mournfulness as a sign of my loyalty. It’s okay to let go. It is okay to live after someone we love has died. After all, love in its truthful definition is selfless, which means, those who pass would want us to live as best as we can.
Soon enough, the weather will cool. Soon enough, I will see snow-caps on the mountains that peak behind my home. Soon enough; Christmas will be here. And me . . . I guarantee I’ll be sure to find myself a spot on the couch with a cup of warm apple cider and watch Jesus of Nazareth.
Also, It’s A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stuart. I can’t miss that one. Or Boys Town with Spencer Tracy as Father Father Flanagn and Mickey Rooney as Whitey Marsh
And by the way Pop,
I did just like you said. I took care of Mom the best I could. It’s only right that she’s with you now.
Sleep well and know that I love you