Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

The last time I spent Christmas with my family was four years ago.

Christmas Eve 2012 - Laughing
Christmas 2012 - So little
Thanksgiving 2012 - Newest Arrival
I was watching the Bucks game last night and the announcer asked the GM if it is difficult for the players always traveling during the Holidays.  And the GM said during the season every day is a Wednesday.  I couldn't agree more since I've gotten ill …everyday is Wednesday.

It makes me a bit concerned when I looked back at photos. My niece was born November 2nd 2012.  So I stayed in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving.  Then my mom and I flew to Phoenix so I could get some treatments and I flew back again for Christmas.  I didn't remember that, I needed to look at photos.  And to be honest I'm not completely sure, I'm trusting the dates from my iPhone.  It scares me a bit because that doesn't feel at all in the realm of possibility right now.  Sometimes I think I keep improving but then I wonder if I'm actually worse but I'm just getting better at this new life.

The first 3 years I decided to stay in Phoenix by myself for Christmas it was a massive relief.  It's the juxtaposition between traditions that carry on but I experience them in a completely different way.  The best I can describe is the grief that many carry during the Holidays when a place setting is empty.  You carry on, you focus on the new generation but there is an empty spot that can't be filled, it is endured.  It is filled with what was and the reality that the sadness is there because there was so much joy.

The Holidays had become something I endured.  I showed up for.  But I could no longer enjoy all my favorite foods.  I could no longer help wrap the presents, prep any food, help decorate the tree which to be honest was never my favorite but when you can't of course you miss the faux dreaded task.  Can't help clean up, the noise starts to get to me, lots of people many fighting off colds.  It's all right in front of me this amazing family and friends -all the memories of how it use to be.  And it's just too much.  So the first few years alone in Phoenix went quite well.  I have my dear helpers that make it festive when I don't feel like it.  I can FaceTime and enjoy from a distance.  It's really okay.  It's just like another Wednesday.

However, this year I couldn't shake that this is the new normal.  I think the first few years I convinced myself it was a blip…it was necessary piece of the puzzle to get well and get back to normal.  This year my youngest niece is 4, and she has no memory of me being at a Thanksgiving or a Christmas.  This year I just feel alone, but not really lonely.  This year the last week I have been so sick that getting to tomorrow as I said is really all I cared about.  Nostalgia would be asking for too much.

So I woke up this morning and was about to call my parents and started to cry.  And I didn't want to start my mom's day off with me crying.  It's early - it always gets better later in the day.  I don't feel as bad as the last 4, that's progress.  I will get stronger as the day goes on and will FaceTime with everyone.  But I just couldn't shake the Christmas Eve blues.  So I decided to call my best friend - and cry first with her and get it out of my system.  And then this happened….

I'm holding back tears saying hello and I hear all this commotion in the background.  
Me: "Hi, Where are you?" 
Steph: In between scolding her two eldest children, "We are at the mall in line for Santa"
Me: "That's right you do that every year don't you.."
Steph: "Yes and normally there is no line and I forgot that with the Packer game it's a mob scene…we've been in line 25 minutes.."
Me: "Oh so you're going to leave.."
Steph: "No we're staying…" Now she's trying to round up her two eldest that are for some reason with her at Talbots.  Guessing her husband and youngest are in the line.
Me: "Oh my goodness your husband is a Saint" "I called because I needed a good cry before I called my parents and am wishing I was home…right now chilling in bed feeling not great but not horrible doesn't seem all that bad"

We both were laughing…and see just like that it can turn around.  This is not the ideal Holiday for me.  It isn't even close.  But at the end of the day I have what I need.  I have a loving family.  I have food on the table…mind you the same limited diet but I don't have to check my bank account to buy it.  I have friends that make me laugh, listen to me cry, listen to me say…how did this happen I don't think I can do it another day.  I have an amazing dog.  I have helpers that are a second family and don't let me forget that.  

Yesterday I thought all I would want for Christmas is one day.  One day of my old life prior to this illness.  And it reminded me of all the people out there that would like one more day with those they love.  That is what I wanted.  One more day with someone I loved…my old self my old life.  But grief doesn't work that way; because one more day I would beg for one more hour, then 15 more minutes, then even one more minute.  But then that silly conversation happened with imaging Stephanie at the mall and the chaos and the laughing and I thought I can do this new life one more day.  It isn't easy, it isn't what I dreamed…but I always go back to that saying we don't know what is on the other side of the mountain.  And the moments I treasure would all be sliding doors different.  And at my best I try to switch my mindset to a tip I heard somewhere which is "I get to"...

I get to FaceTime with my family.  I get to escape the winter.  I get to watch the Packer game.  I get to sleep in a comfortable bed and wake up and open presents from people I love.  And in my most optimistic moments I get to see what this challenge and this illness will take me.  Maybe no where except that it's just another Wednesday and I made it tomorrow and that is enough.  More than enough.

As I am writing this my phone rang and it was Vasil, who use to drive me to the doctor before I got full time help.  Now he takes us to and from the airport.  When my mom left two weeks ago I tried not to cry and V gave me a big bear hug and said it's going to be okay.  This is how I am so blessed.  A few years ago when I wasn't well enough to drive myself to the doctor for the first time I called the Biltmore Hotel and asked for the Valet.  I explained I lived a block away and could they send a driver over to pick me up I was short on time and this was before Uber.  Okay let's be real - I wouldn't have probably thought to call Uber. And Vasil showed up.  He emigrated from Bulgaria with his wife.  Where he owned a night club and his wife was an attorney.  She now works at a resort and he is a driver; and he is always full of Joy.  So the phone rang and he asked if he could swing by and brought me a gift from him and his wife.  This is what I get.  I get compassion, and love and the gift of someone that one day took a sick girl to the doctor and became a dear friend.  The 5 minutes I prepped for a visitor and then the 5 that I used genuine enthusiasm while he was here has landed me exhausted…and I couldn't be more grateful.  This is what I get.

This post is dedicated to my two dear friends who lost their mother's in the last month. My heart aches because yours ache.  Your strength amazes me.   And my dear friend who tragically lost her nephew who was also my old friend and colleague whom I adored watching live loud and live love.  Whatever Holiday you celebrate may you get Joy.

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