Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Shadows and Winter Showers

Shortly before dinner last Christmas, my Grandmother made her final trip to the ER. She fell into a coma and died a little over a month later. My family, which was never very large or especially close, became even smaller and more divided. After her death, my father no longer had any reason to quit drinking , so he went back to a life of depressed, drunken isolation of his own choosing. My Uncle has almost vanished, he, like my father, didn't return my pre- Thanksgiving calls. My Twin brother and I stay in pretty close contact, though.

A rift has opened between myself and my older relatives. It's been in place for decades, but it widened significantly when I chose to quit drinking. I get the feeling that my dad and uncle are uncomfortable and resentful of me for not drinking; my sobriety pisses them off because it makes them look bad in comparison. I have tried to convince them just how painful, horrible and utterly pathetic a drunkard's death is, but they don't listen.

An aside: One of the women at work asked me if I was related a certain man who shares my last name. Yes, I answered, he is my uncle. She told me that she used to work with him 25 years ago. Then she asked if he still had a drinking problem. I got the impression that she didn't like him much. It was awkward and a bit embarrassing.

My dad finally called the other day. He suggested that we cancel Christmas this year. With Grandmother dead, he said, there's no real reason to gather at the old house-which is probably a burned-out wreck after a year of my father's drunken stewardship, after all.

My Grandma was the glue that held our tiny family together, Thanksgiving and Christmas were her days. My father, to his credit, would manage to stay sober during the holidays, although his younger brother tended to pick up the slack. This year, they will both be drunk and I have no desire to spend any time at all with my besotted relatives. I used to love preparing the big holiday dinners that my Grandma enjoyed so much, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna waste my time and energy cooking for a pair of mean, drunk old men.
Fuck that.

My brother will be visiting soon. It'll be good to see him. We only have one surviving relative on our mother's side, her younger brother, but we'll probably spend Christmas Day with him and his wife. I like them. If the weather allows, we might go ATV'ing. We'll find something to do. We might skip Christmas per se but we certainly won't cancel it. If Dad sobers up, I'd be glad to see him. If not, I don't care. He can cancel his own damn Christmas.

I was in rush-hour traffic this morning, moving slowly through a heavy rain, when my driver's side windshield wiper stopped.

I was blind in less than a second, all I could see was the blur of the lights in front of me- I turned on my blinkers and slowed down to a crawl. I had to stick my head out of the window just to change lanes and my glasses got covered in water, I was driving on luck and adrenaline..I was terrified, I could barely tell the difference between a tractor-trailer and an off-ramp but somehow I managed to get off the main road and park safely. The windshield wiper turned out to a simple fix- a loose screw, basically- but by the time I fixed it, I was soaking wet, miserable and totally rattled by my roadway crisis. I think I was in a state of mild shock.

Things sort of went downhill from there.

But I'm not gonna let it cancel Christmas.


yellowdog granny said...

just when you think your rid of the blues..they drag you back in..
sorry for all your woes my friend..i understand about the relatives not wanting to be around you while they drink and you remain sober..I make my drinking friends nervous too. they see me sober, remember how I was always drinking and they still's like a silent judgement on them. and not once have i ever said to any of should stop drinking too...not my job..but if they quit drinking they wouldn't have any reasons or excuses for their behaviour.

NYD said...

Look, you don't have to subscribe to the holiday bullshit. December is a month like any other month and the 25th will pass like every other day that has been deemed "unspecial". Just get on with living and do your best to communicate with the relatives. They are blood , after all.

NYD said...

Look, you don't have to subscribe to the holiday bullshit. December is a month like any other month and the 25th will pass like every other day that has been deemed "unspecial". Just get on with living and do your best to communicate with the relatives. They are blood , after all.

Anonymous said...

My belated condolences on grandma; it is clear that she was very loved and is missed.

But that wiper-blade thing is downright terrifying. Thank God you knew what to do, because I wouldn't have.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Make Christmas into what works for you. Make it your day. I relate to your story as my mom was that glue and now we are scattered. It hit me this year that I don't want to spend time with my siblings; I like my in-laws better and I don't even care if I spend time with them. I just want my son to enjoy Christmas. It's hard when we see so many people we love pass on. But we can recreate whatever this holiday is supposed to be--Jesus was NOT born on Dec. 25th-- and make it holy.

I understand this post all too well. You and I are kindred, friend.

Allan said...

JS- I'm OK, it's the family drunks who have the blues.

NYD- I don't know what I will do but I do know what I won't do. I won't put up with drunks.

EoTR- I do hope your son enjoys the holiday, that's what it is for. I like my sibling -he is my favorite relative.

Merelyme said...

I am so sorry about your grandmother. Holidays are so hard. You are constantly given images of the perfect norman rockwell portrait of a family and nobody has a family like that...well at least nobody I know. I get sad around this time of year starting with thanksgiving and ending with the new year. is sad to say...I like taking the tree out to the curb and saying goodbye to this holiday and moving on.

Your writing is spectacular by the way...doesn't matter whether you are talking about your memories or your windshield have an amazing ability with words.

angel said...

i do hope that you have a nice christmas with your brother and your mom's side of the family. you know if you were here- or if i were there- you could join me and mine at the drop of a hat!
i remember how frightening and frustrating it was for me when my little sister drank, and how many a family occasion was ruined or written off because she was either too torched to pitch or too torched to stay...
{{hugs}} allan, BIG ones!

srp said...

What are we - chopped liver?

A very interesting and profoundly sad take on Xmas. You think your dad and uncle don't want to be around you because you are sober - it's really not about you or your sobriety. They're both drunks - and really aren't interested in anything or anybody except when and how they're going to get the next drink. It's incredibly sad that they have not been able to reach out or accept help. But hey, you don't have to be a drunk to be selfish and thoughtless.

Beth said...

My church used to have a feeding program every Saturday that was open to anyone in need. One year, Christmas fell on a Saturday and I volunteered to help with the feeding program. It was really rewarding. Maybe that would be a great way to use your culinary skills on Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I remember that, with your grandmother last year. Seems tome that when a family member changes, there is always a subste of the family who actively resists. Maybe your growth and health is threatening to them because it calls them to examine their own lives. They don't want to do that.

Your father can't cancel Christamas, though - you get to choose to make of it what you will.

Allan said...

JP- Hey, man! Nice seeing you!

E-I'm hoping your son enjoys it too.

M- I can't wait to see the trees on the curb! Thanks for the kind words, I admire your work too.

A- I ruined a holiday or three, I think. Best wishes this year!

SRP- Chopped liver? Hardly. You are probably right about the rest-
I'm incapable of being objective on the subject.

B- I wonder if I'm destined for the soup kitchen? Perhaps we all are.

C- I'm thinking my cousin might be right. Whatever I do doesn't matter to the drunks.
I'm not sure I'm growing or healing...there is so much chaos in my life that I can barely get through a day without flipping out. I'm hoping the feeling passes soon.