I'll Not be Home for Christmas

In my 38 years, I have never once not been with my parents on either Christmas eve or Christmas day.  Even when I was in the military, I lucked out in that I wasn’t deployed over Christmas, and I was able to drive from North Carolina to Ohio, even if only for a 48 hour visit.  Since 2002, I’ve added Megan’s family to that tradition, always ensuring that my second family was part of the holidays, but simply splitting time between both.

It was convenient that both my family and Megan’s family lived within 15 minutes of each other, and we never lived farther than 30 minutes away from either.  Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas day with hers.

Since Megan’s death, that tradition has remained the same.  Now, however, there’s a third and fourth family.

Being that we’re both widows, Sarah and I are far and away different in this respect from most couples that are divorced or were previously unmarried.  Those third and fourth families aren’t people we chose to even slightly emancipate from. They are just as much a part of our lives and history and traditions as they ever were.  

That makes the holidays, shall we say, interesting.  

Sarah’s family doesn’t live nearby.  They don’t even live in Ohio, save for her nephew, an hour away.  They live in Texas and New York and Oklahoma and Indiana. I’ve met each of her siblings, and their families, and spent time with them, but never all at once.  Such is geography.

Like Megan’s side of the family for myself, Drew’s family is Sarah’s second.  Mine is Sarah’s third, and Drew’s is my fourth. Sarah’s is my third, and Megan’s is Sarah’s fourth.  There’s also the extended families and friends, adding a fifth for each of us.


Math is hard.  Moving on.


(They are not “ranked” in those orders, it’s just my “simple” way of describing it.  They all have equal worth when it comes to the holidays.)

Which is why this year, Christmas will be interesting for me.  Sarah, Shelby and I will be in Texas, with Drew’s family. It is the first time in almost four decades that I will not be with my parents, the first in sixteen years that I won’t be with Megan’s, on those two particular days.  

Make no mistake, I love Drew’s family, and I AM excited to spend time with them on Christmas.  There is an almost overwhelming premonition of guilt though. I almost feel as if I am betraying my own family, as well as Megan’s, not only by my own non-presence, but especially their granddaughter not being there.

I know they all understand that Sarah’s families are just as much a part of our lives now.  I know they don’t feel betrayed or overlooked that we won’t be there on Christmas eve/day. I know they want us home, but they also want us to be happy and to honor both of our pasts.  They all love Sarah as a newer part of their own family, and have welcomed her, cautiously at first, but wholeheartedly not long after, into their lives.

They “get it”.  Sarah and I have been together almost four years now, and this is the first time we will be travelling as a family to Texas for the holidays.  This isn’t going to be a yearly thing, and may not even be an “alternating years” thing. Sarah misses them at Christmas, as much as I am going to miss mine.  I’ve seen her actively pining and homesick the past two years., It crushes me that we can’t be with all of our families at the same time; to see her enjoying the time with Megan and I’s families, yet looking at a picture of Drew or her own family gathered around a Christmas tree, her eyebrows raising, and the corners of her mouth lowering a bit.

Such is one of the complexities of widowhood and relationships after.  Ours may have more geographical distance involved, but even if Sarah was born and raised down the street from me, and all of our families lived in the same city, there will always be the feeling of “spreading ourselves thin”.  

It is much, much more acute in our case, as we will be 1400 miles and a time zone away from where I’ve always spent Christmas.  Much like everything else I had to reinvent, evolve, change, and grow from after Megan’s death, I must see this as an opportunity to accept, enjoy, love, and learn without guilt or apprehension.  

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  • Olivia Arnold
    commented 2018-12-12 05:43:02 -0800
    I have 3 families to split myself between for the holidays…my own parents/family, Mike’s family and now my boyfriend’s family. They don’t live as far apart as your 4 families but each is about an hour away from the next. It’s hard to balance it all. I’m trying this year to do all 3 in the day since they all do Christmas day. I’m not sure it will be able to be a yearly thing but we’ll see. I hope you enjoy your day!
  • Linda Keeling
    commented 2018-12-08 11:08:27 -0800
    Being remarried has made the holidays a challenge as well… never had this with my John… and both my hubby and I, with being older, have 35+ years traditions on both sides … it’s been a challenge for sure.
    Regrettably his adult children are not willing to do anything differently, though…. and all hits the fan if we opt to NOT go….it stresses us both so much and my husband buckles under the demands of the his adult children.
    My family has bent over backwards to accommodate his family schedule yet there is some underlying resentment.
    So we do the best we can and work hard to not allow these challenges put a damper on the holidays and our relationship.
    If I were retired like my husband, he would want to go to Florida for the last 2 weeks of December….LOL