The holidays are hard.

I sit here on the 12th of December, knowing that Christmas is just two weeks away.  The duties that I am required to do are mostly finished.  Presents are purchased.  The tree is up. My travel arrangements are made to go visit family and friends.

And yet there is something always lurking.  Always missing. Something that loss brings to you, and resurrects its ugly head every year.

Because the holidays are a milestone that never pass.

When your loved one leaves, that is what you think of.  What milestones will they miss?  My father will never walk me down the aisle.  He will never meet his grandchildren.  Never learn that I have not only started, but now nearly finished, a doctorate. But those are one-timers.  A hurtful, yet quick, searing of suffering.

But holidays, and birthdays, and anniversaries aren’t swift.  They come back year in and year out, and leave you with a cyclical pain.  They bring back the strongest of memories, usually ones that leave you with the most heartbreak because they are the best.

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Waiting on the stairs to see if Santa arrived…

The sight of a Christmas tree makes me remember when my father used to message Santa Claus through his mind.  I don’t know what made us believe that Santa used ESP, and/or was an alien instead of a chubby old bearded man, but we believed.  He would bring his long pointer fingers up to his temples and begin mumbling in a nonsensical way, attempting to get Santa “on the line” while we kneeled before him, excited for the scavenger hunt that only Santa knew how to begin.

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Decorating the tree…

Wrapping presents makes me yearn for an argument with my father as he bartered with my siblings into wrapping anything he had purchase for my mother. He was a brilliant surgeon, but a horrendous present wrapper.  When we were older, we took the bribe in exchange for $20.  But when we were younger, we would venture down to the basement with him and be his faithful assistant.  I can still remember the feeling of the ribbons as my tiny fingers anchored down the knot so that he could make the most pristine bunny ears.

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Getting a western saddle for Christmas at the age of 8….

Or the thought of going home will leave your heart both anxious, as well as feeling trepidation.  In just a few days my significant other and I will be traveling to Chautauqua Lake, New York.  It is my favorite place on this planet, and somewhere Luke has also come to love with all of his heart.  It is currently covered in snow, which means that we will get to sled down the front stairs, build a snowman, start WW3 in a snowball fight with a plethora of Fedorka children that all have wicked arms and no mercy.  It will be beautiful, it will be full of family and feuds, and it will be hard.

Because although Chautauqua Lake is one of our favorite places, it is only in our lives because it was my fathers favorite place.  He was born there, he spent his entire life there, and his ashes are now spread there.  So instead of sledding next to him, or tossing a snowball at him, we get to acknowledge that the snow that we touch is a part of him. The waves that beat the slate banks are him.  Everything we look and touch embody him.

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The new normal at Chautauqua…

I lamented of this to my dear friend Amy yesterday, someone that has also experienced the loss of her father, and she said that it takes longer than a decade to learn to love the holidays again.  For me it has been 8 years of uncertainty over my feelings for them. 8 years of these bipolar emotions ranging between love and hate.  Excitement and anxiety.

So this year, I am going in full force.  I am attacking the trepidation and learning to love Christmas again.  I am radioing into Santa and telling him that I am ready.  Little things like baking cookies, or putting that ornament back on the tree that brought me such sadness.  To big things like Secret Santa Stockings, the new Baskets of Cheer, where we will be surprising the patients of the Markey Cancer Center with gifts of holiday cheer.

I want my holiday cheer back. I also want my father back.  And my uncles.  And my grandfathers.  And everyone else that I have lost.  One of these things I can work on, the other I cannot.

So few family remain, but I’m now realizing that we are growing in size at the same time.  We might be down on the founding members, but I have gained a brother in law, and a sister in law. I am lacking Santa’s lackey, but now have a super significant boyfriend (SSBF) that I adore.

So in honor of those that we have lost, lets celebrate.  Lets honor their love of the holidays, and the love that we used to know with them alongside us. Lets be a little nicer to our neighbor, sing that Christmas Carol a little bit louder, eat a few more of those sugar cookies, take those ridiculous pictures with our animals, and travel just a little bit farther in order to be surrounded by those loved ones that remain.  And lets have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

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10 Comments on “Have yourself a merry little Christmas

  1. Carleigh…you are well on your way! Believe what you’ve written but don’t be a slave to it. Wrap your love around all those around you, two and four-legged and things will be better this year. You, my new on-line friend, are one of my new delights this year and I enjoy watching your life unfold.

  2. Thank you – this is the first year without our son – I am going to try and still find Christmas as he loves it, but it will be very hard, and I know it will be a very long time before it will get easier . . . if ever.

  3. Enjoy your holiday and surround yourself with those who love you dearly, both 2 footed and 4 footed. It is a process that does take awhile for sure.

  4. Hi Carleigh,

    You could have been writing about me. Like you, my dad was a surgeon that I lost way too early. My family has deep roots at Chautauqua. My dad grew up there, my mom spent summers there, and our family had a vacation home there for 30 years. Chautauqua is now where my mom, dad, sister, and brother in law are buried – not our hometown of Lakewood, OH. My husband and I cherish our condo on Chautauqua since it brings me back full circle to the touchstone place of my life. Enjoy your family moments there building new memories, knowing that your dad’s spirit is all around you.

    Another similarity-I went to UK and am a career horsewoman.

    Wishing you the healing of Chautauqua,
    Mary

    • Amazing the parallel lives you two have led. Very nice sentiments. Merry Christmas from this life long horsewomen (and pre-vet student from University of Missouri)…on a ranch in New Mexico.

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