It was still dark when I stepped outside the Holiday Inn near the Los Angeles airport where the airline had been forced to put me up after a snarl of delays and cancellations across the country left me unable to make my connection back to Hawaii. It was the final leg in a long day and a half of travel and I felt bleary and grungy, having spent the night without my larger bag of clothes which, I was told, the airline agent's eyes wide with horror as she printed out my hotel voucher the night before, was somewhere lost in massive chaos down in the baggage area.
So another Christmas has passed us by, my third without my husband. Initially, I felt like this one was going to be a bit easier than my past two, and I guess in some ways it was.
However despite enjoying the festive build-up, the Christmas parties, house-decorating and gift-buying, the heaviness in my heart on Christmas day was unavoidable.
Here's the sucky thing about being widowed. Well, one of the many sucky things about it anyway. Holidays will always be hard. They will always be tarnished with lost love and that empty chair at the table. There is just no getting around it, and it doesn't matter how long it's been. I've been thinking about it a lot this year - my third since Mike died - because the more time that passes the more I realize that will simply not change. It's not like some future year I will just be blissfully happy without a care in the world or sadness and longing. It's just never going to happen.
My Christmas tree is up. It nearly didn't happen. Again. I had that moment where I didn't see the point, with the same questions I've asked myself for the preview two years since he passed.
I thought 'I live alone, I won't even be here on Christmas day - I'll be at my sister's house. It's so depressing to decorate a tree on your own, why bother?'. Yet tradition and ritual won out over the sadness I knew it would bring.
In Zoar, Ohio, there is a tree farm that allows you to cut your own Christmas trees. Shelby, Megan, and I had been here a few times to shuffle through the snow, walking around so many firs, pines, and spruces, to pick the perfect specimen for our living room. Once located, I would proceed to lie on the ground and begin sawing. A few seconds later, I would be loading that tree onto a sled, and dragging it up the hill to the workers that would shake the loose needles off and bundle it before loading it into my truck.
It hadn’t quite sunken in yet when Sarah, Shelby and I did just that this past weekend.
We would get the tree home, and I would cut the bottom inch off of the trunk before bringing it into the house. I would load it into the stand, adjust all of the bolts that held it upright, and give it a few good shakes to make sure it was stable. If I was satisfied that it wasn’t going to fall over and crush a dog or child, I would water it, cut the twine off, let it unfurl, crawl under, adjust it away from the wall, and maybe give it a turn to hide any thin spots.
We did that last weekend, and it still hadn’t hit me.
Somehow, my computer erased the post I’d been working on this week. I am NOT grateful for that. Grrrrr.
But what I’d planned to say will probably not come as a surprise. It’s Thanksgiving again and it’s just not an easy time for us widowed folk. No matter what else lovely we find in our lives in the strange after-world, it is painful to remember all the happy T-days we spent with our missing loved one; to notice the void at the table.
I can no longer say “one year ago, Megan did this”. She’s been gone 369 days. Today isn’t anything special or significant in the grand scheme of things, but it is interesting to me how the one year mark mentally appears to be a weight off of my shoulders in a sense.
I have experience now. I’ve been through Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries without her. I’d like to say that I know what to expect now, and that those dates can’t be any worse than the first year. I’m smart enough to know that I can’t predict that though.
Last year, I was a mess. I fell apart at my parents house on Thanksgiving day. No reason or trigger happened...it was just “because”. As soon as I got home, the dread of how I was going to get through Christmas morning began. All I could think of was Shelby running down the stairs to see the gifts under the tree that morning, eyes full of happiness, and Megan not being there to see it.