Thursday, November 14, 2019

Have the holidays been cancelled?

Our son who has brain cancer has decided that this year we won’t celebrate November birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.  Of course, we are disappointed, but he needs to be careful about viruses.

But that set me to thinking about other unusual holidays.  Our son Stanley died on February 13, and we were receiving Valentine cards and sympathy cards in the same mail drop. Our son Patrick died shortly before Thanksgiving, so that holiday in 1964 was pretty much a blur.  I can’t even remember if we made the trip to Mt. Morris or stayed in Champaign.
 Stanley, Christmas 1962
Bob's mother, grandmother, Aunt Babe, Aunt Bert

And my dear Mother, always one for stern advice, warned me not to let bad memories interfere with future enjoyment of holidays.  It was wise advice, especially since I didn’t know she especially cared about holidays, which were always rather low keyed in my family, compared with my husband’s family blow outs and budget busting gifts.

Christmas both of those years was just awful.  My sisters had adorable toddlers the same age as Stanley, which we needed to admire and coo about while remembering an earlier Christmas with Mom and Dad beaming holding 3 babies. I have a few photos from those years and I look like death warmed over, as we used to say in the 20th century.

 Our final Christmas in our home of 34 years, 2001

Thanksgiving 2009
Another holiday alone memory is the fall of 1957.  My college roommate, JoElla, and I decided we would just stay on campus for Thanksgiving and not face that 6 hour drive back to Illinois. We could relax, read, maybe go to a movie and catch up on laundry.  What a disaster!  We had no idea how deserted and lonely the campus would be, or how everything would be closed and we’d eat cold food in our dorm room.  By Christmas I was so homesick I could barely function.

Then there was the year that my sister and I decided we’d do something totally different for the holidays because our adult children were squabbling with each other—I don’t even remember the year—sometime in the early 2000s—or what the disputes were.  By comparison with this year, they were certainly minor. So we got together at Rehoboth Beach and had Thanksgiving dinner at a lovely hotel known for that event.

For years we shared and alternated our winter holidays with our son in law’s parents in Cleveland. I think we ate alone in a restaurant or would drive to Indianapolis to have dinner with Bob’s family—usually a huge crowd and that often made us feel even more lonely because by that time some of our nieces and nephews were grandparents and we couldn’t even identify some of the people.

And Oh My.  The years I cancelled at the last minute our plans to drive to Illinois to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my parents.  One of us would always seem to come down with a cold and it would go through the family so I’d cancel the 10 hour trip. And guiltily I confess, that I often wasn’t too sad, because what looked like a fabulous idea during Indian Summer in October’s bright colors didn’t look so great in the ice and snow of late December.  Mom was always understanding and gracious—not to worry, they would drive to Oregon and eat at the nursing home with my grandparents.

Again the holidays of 2017-18 were really bad.  Our daughter had planned a great neighborhood football party, the invitations were out, the food was prepared, and their sweet little Chihuahua Abby died very suddenly. It was a horrible shock.  We were all devastated, especially since in the previous 3 months Phil’s dear Rosa and our Lotsa Spotsa had died and it was like opening a raw wound.  At the last minute, the five of us did get together, enjoyed the food, and watched the game. We cried and laughed and helped each other get through a very bad time. It was momentary—you don’t get over a tragedy just by enjoying a few laughs and some great food.  But it helps.

The early Americans were still thankful for their good harvest in spite of all their losses, and Jesus was still born in a manger in Bethlehem to be setting out for the cross years later.  We’ll remember what holidays are about and will be thankful for our hope which is in the Lord, and for modern technology and drugs which will battle this disease for us.

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