I had written this article for a magazine but after watching The Grinch UK with my boys today, I thought there may be some of you who will appreciate it now, in early November….
One son was at Cubs for the evening, another was playing with his wooden train track and the last was mumbling about no charge in the iPad. I had my biggest number of print orders on my art website that week and was amidst the hustle of making myself and my husband a late dinner. Stir-fry and prawns. Nothing too tasking.
Without warning or reason the tears settled into the creases of my eyeliner. Thoughts of Dad rushed as I lifted the kids empty plastic cups off the table. The table he bought with his first pay cheque. Now a battered table and, when moved it almost loses a wooden leg. Yet, it holds meaning and it is one of the ways to be close to my Dad who died when I was seven.
The older I get the more I cling to the physical elements where he once breathed life. The character of a man still lingering through this wonky table or white bulb light that hangs above my kitchen breakfast bar. A white light bulb light box with the words ‘duneight services’across it. This was the petrol station Dad owned with my, also deceased, Uncle Tom.
Memories of him on every crevice and corner of my home. I pass such fixtures everyday and my eyes do not flicker, nor does my heart pull. However, in this instance, while the cinnamon candle burns and the Christmas advertisements begin to ring out on the television, I feel grief in all it’s force. And I cry.
Tears flowing. To the point where my two year old asks “did you bang your knee too, mummy?”. Uncontrolled and wet. Wet soppy tears and a yearning for my Dad to be sat with a cup of tea and his oil stained hands from mechanic work at the table he used to own. A need for him to talk about the weather or to lift one of my sons into the air for a shoulder ride.
It’s a pain I cannot put lightly into sentences but one that I have learned to let exist. In the busyness and the rough and tumble of being a business woman, a wife and a mum, I no longer reject these emotions and this… well, sadness.
So much of my life was spent telling myself that I was “lucky “ because dad died of natural causes instead of being murdered or killed suddenly. Other times I had myself convinced that one parent being alive was all I ever needed and that grieving Dad was my way of looking for pity.
But that is not the case.
I don’t want attention or pitying eyes on me when I have these moments that stop me in my tracks as I boil potatoes on the hob.
I don’t need hands on my back patting me. I just need that fleeting moment in time to remember who is missing so much of my life. Who no longer sits at the table at Christmas.
My beautiful cousin died in January and this Christmas we will be without her on Christmas day. After both of our fathers died the two families and widowing mothers merged. Even after we had our own children everyone still continued to mash together like a herd of cattle to share Christmas shloer and cut the turkey.
I remember a few years ago as I took the annual self timer shot of our family one of us commented how we have to do these things because “you never know what the next year will bring”.
And its true, isn’t it? A few days, hours or months can change a whole lot in our lives.
So this Christmas, if you dread the radio playing “the bells are ringing out for Christmas day” or, you find yourself slapped in the face by grief as you bundle the kids to send them to the school nativity. Please afford yourself that time.
Tears can be wiped and make up retouched. But memories and moments in the short spaces of stillness that we give ourselves, cannot be replaced.
Allow your mind to take that journey of engaging with the smells and sounds that once were. The ones that remind you vividly of the person you miss with all of your heart.
Your life is all the richer for keeping the ones you have lost at the forefront. Talking about them, wearing their sweaters (or Dad’s boiler suit like I do when I paint. ) and playing their top 10 tunes on the hi fi that sat in their bedroom.
Grief doesn’t disappear but it does linger and I’ve learned that it, in itself, can be a good thing.
A two minute window when we are forced to stand still while the world spins – It’s ok to feel sad this Christmas.
When your tears are wiped and your laughter returns you will be all the more merry for it!