I always called it “being numb.” I reach a point where stress and confusion accumulate to a level that leaves me unable to function, unable to think in a straight line.

Okay, I can’t think in a straight line much of the time, I do well to skip around two or three concurrent trains of thought … with my meds.

This year was going to be different!

Okay, this year couldn’t help but be different. Christmas, 1983, marked the first Christmas I spent with the woman who would soon be my wife. Christmas, 1984, was the first Christmas we spent together as husband and wife. And we spent every subsequent Christmas, until 2010, in each others company. Now I’ve been left to try to find Christmas on my own.

I chose the cowardly way out, I denied Christmas entry into my home. I chose not to shop. I chose not to go through the things my wife had already purchased (she began Christmas shopping in January, sometimes earlier). I did not decorate, I did not send out cards, I did not plan any meals in my home for friends and family. I retreated emotionally, or so I thought.

Video killed the radio star

Every morning for 27 years, my wife got up and turned on the radio. Somewhere around the 20th of December this year, I realized I don’t do that. The clock/radio by my bed goes off each morning, but it’s tuned to a station that is mostly talk, little music. I’d not been bombarded with Christmas music like I normally would have been. “Good,” I thought, “who needs it?”

Instead of tuning in to the usual Christmas movies and specials I fired up my video equipment and watched movies I’d wanted to see, or ones I wanted to see again.

Then it happened

It began with my niece. Fearing that I would be left with Christmas things in my house for a year, she came out to visit and insisted on helping me go through the items stashed away in the basement.

She helped me sort out the skimpy offering of presents for the toy drive, and went with me as I explained my circumstances to the fire chief.

Then we went through what was wrapped and tagged and found it to be pretty evenly dispersed among the family. She took it all home with her. She became the bearer of her aunt’s last Christmas cheer to her siblings and parents, her niece and nephews. I did not begrudge her this labor.

And so, with that taken care of, I settled in for a quiet weekend, hoping I could survive on the fellowship of the friends who have not abandoned me. I was hoping that stress would not refuel the ADHD fire that has made me the uber-scattered, distracted and anxiety ridden man I’ve been this last half a year.

More Family to the rescue

I was still not to get off so easily. But I was also not to suffer alone. I had thought I might bring a friend with me to my family Christmas gathering, I’ve found that the topic of my grief comes up less when I introduce someone else into the mix. Alas, I couldn’t find one willing or available. Just as well, it turned out, my family was ready to keep me busy and laughing and when they failed, they held me ‘til the tears stopped and then regrouped to make every effort to cheer me again.

Driving home from Christmas (apologies to Chris Rhea)

On my lonely way back home on the evenings of the 24th and 25th, I thought about the differences between this Christmas and others. I thought of my desire to not participate, of how my family and I had just shared each other and done so without presents. We sang, we ate, we laughed and we cried. We teased our father and remembered our mother with fondness. And they gathered around me and made me feel safe.

I had not wanted Christmas because of the memories, but my family had known better, they knew I must have new, good memories. And with perfect timing they gave these to me. You can’t always get what you want (apologies to the Stones this time …), but if you’re really lucky, sometimes, you get what you need.

As Dr. Suess said 2 years before I was born: He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And so it did. Thank you, all.