Grief’s Visit at Christmas Time

img_0519Grief came a-knocking last night. Grief is certainly a persistent night stalker.  After a busy day of running around shopping for Christmas Eve Wigilia and Christmas dinner, and cleaning the house, I relaxed under the glow of the village. That’s when Grief came in. That’s when I sat with a deep longing for Peter. That’s when I knew, really knew because it’s right in front of me now, this year’s Christmas festivities would be different and hard and lonely.

Peter didn’t like Christmas. His dislike bordered on hate. He disdained the commercialization of it all and never watched a Christmas movie, or listened to Christmas carols. He never understood why people couldn’t be ‘jolly’ and ‘peaceful’ and have ‘goodwill’ throughout the year. My answer to him was “people just don’t so let’s celebrate when they do”.  I think by the shake of his head and the grimace on his face, Peter thought my answer wasn’t good enough, perhaps even ridiculous.

In figuring out his dislike, I have one theory. Peter’s birthday is, was – hard to talk in the past tense still – a few days before Christmas and he was a twin. He once told me he didn’t like getting combined Christmas and birthday gift and then shared with a twin. Maybe this was a key to his almost crabby resistance to Christmas. I’m not one hundred percent sure as it could have been just a comment like we all had about sucky birthdays of our pasts. And it may have happened once and it stuck with him. Still, I think it stuck with him enough to mention it.

Or, maybe I read too much into a comment about his childhood. Maybe there were no reasons other than what he always said – Christmas is too commercial and we should act kind and gracious all year round. After all, Peter spoke simply and clearly. He was a kind man. He did treat people well. And he was gracious with his time and help.  Peter also wasn’t a man with hidden meanings or deep thoughts behind his revelations. He said what he meant. And, truthfully, he was not wrong. Christmas has become commercialized. Taking it from someone who is right up there with the over-the-top commercialization of it all…that’d be me. Perhaps living with me all these years turned him off. I could be the reason Peter didn’t like Christmas. In my defense, he never told me to stop. In fact, he could be downright encouraging, in a Peter sort of way.

Despite his struggles with the Holidays, Peter would smile – the loving, sexy smile he only wore for me – when I placed another elf put on a curtain rod. A tease was always planted in his eyes when he said our house was the house “where Santa threw up”.  Peter even indulged me by putting lights on the house (the only colored lighted house on the block because those are the ones I liked) and built me a manger to put three feet lighted plastic statues on our lawn. When I think about all he did, how he went along with me, helped me, and even faked enthusiasm when the kids were young – not the greatest of actors, but a novella might have recruited him – Peter showed his love for me on Christmas. He showed his love the best way he knew how – by creating and doing and going along with it even though it pained him sometimes.

When Peter was being a Christmas curmudgeon, I knew he loved me, loved his family. Through the smells of Christmas baking, the cutting down of Christmas trees, the decorating, and the exchanging of gifts, Peter went along with everything because he knew how much it meant to me. And I will miss that meaning of our love, perhaps the true meaning of Christmas. And I know I have Christmas memories to hold onto, but I don’t have them to repeat, and that is what destroys me – another once-was I have stored in my memory bank, with a never-again being withdrawn.

Last year, Peter built for me a tower to put my village on. I casually asked for one night and he went with it. Being the engineer with a clever mind, he built it so it would stack inside one another like Russian dolls. It’s beautiful and since Grief stopped me from decorating how I once did, it’s my only true decoration this year. It’s my 2019 Christmas tree. A friend of mine texted me “the best part of a homemade gift is that you know he was thinking about you the whole time he was working on it”.  I broke down in tears. She was right and this was Peter’s love language. This is how this quiet, unassuming man shouted his Christmas spirit.

Perhaps Peter understood, better than most of us, better than me, that Christmas should not be about gifts, decorations, songs, and movies. Perhaps the real reason Peter pushed back on Christmas because it became too much and evolved into everything he wasn’t – showy and materialistic. Peter wanted the world to be kind and thoughtful and gracious all year round, and disliked, maybe even hated, it wasn’t. Perhaps. But I’ll never know for sure since I can’t ask him this Christmas, nor any other. And Grief reminded me of this last night as it ripped my soul apart reminding me my Christmases with Peter are over.