Friday, December 26, 2008

And so this is Christmas...

We have not yet begun the after Christmas clean up. I am in, what I lovingly refer to as, recovery mode. My husband and I stayed up until 4:30am Christmas Day wrapping presents. Our children were gracious enough to allow us to sleep until 9:00 am. If it were me at their age that would not have been happening. I was up out of bed at 4am and the only reason I wasn't starting on the presents at that point was because my parents would have skinned me alive. We waited until 8 am to wake them up.

If memory serves though, we didn't get to actually open anything until around 2pm Christmas Day for many years. Mostly because of my Grandmother. She would call us every year and say she would be here around 11am. Eleven? For any kid on Christmas morning that was just cruel, as we couldn't open anything until she was there. But, yes, eleven I am saying to you. We did not like Grandma Davies. She didn't understand kids. Not only was eleven too long, but she never showed up then. She would show up around two in the afternoon. Yes, we would have to wait. We would have to wait for the grandparents. They would come with their ugly sweater gifts and we would have to wait for them. We would have to endure the lipsticky kisses, the pretense of caring about how we were (she hated children), and feeling intensely uncomfortable around her and grandpa.

I think about them rarely now. My Grandmother and Grandfather are gone. They died several years ago. My grandmother had brain cancer and my grandfather had emphysema and lung cancer. I hope they did not suffer. But I would be lying if I said that I missed them. I think that there is a part of me that is missing or just never learned to love. I did not love them and when they were gone it just meant that my mother was not tortured by them anymore. She told me of several things that they did to her while she was actively their daughter, and it made me hate them. I don't hate them anymore. I have come to terms with the idea that they were whoever they were because of the times they grew up in, who they had for parents, the experiences they had in life and the frustrations they experienced. They were who they were. Not perfect. No more so than I am. They were people who lived their lives the way they saw fit and that was that. They were not particularly giving people, but that was their right to choose to be that way. I don't have to understand it. They lived. They died. The end.

I just wish I could find it in my heart to say that I loved them. But I didn't. I would feel like a liar if I said it. I don't hate them. But I didn't love them either. They wanted very little to do with me. They got their wish. The only time it matters now is when my mom tries to talk about them to me. She doesn't do that often, but when she does, I feel bad as I don't see them in the rosey light that she does. It seems that their deaths have caused my mom to rework history a bit in her mind to paint them in a kinder, gentler light. I don't disabuse her of her notions, after all, who am I to do so? But I remember them. But they weren't my parents. My mom needs and deserves to feel loved by her parents. If casting them in a slightly more flattering light than reality would afford allows her to feel a little of the love that she never got from them while they lived, then more power to her.

I find the "Judge not, lest ye be judged," passage of the Bible difficult here. I don't want to be unloving or anything, but it is very hard not to pass judgement on my grandparents. They did some very mean things. They were selfish and unkind. They treated each other poorly. None of their children seemed to want anything to do with them as they grew up. It makes me sad. They could have had such happy lives. They could have had lives filled with family, fun, laughter and joy. They chose to be bitter and selfish. They chose to be unkind to each other and to teach their children that things matter more than people.

When I was young I remember being at their home and feeling so uncomfortable. I used to get very tense, sitting on the edge of their couch, feet on the plastic runner my grandmother had running through the house. She would continually be making sure that we children (her grandchildren) were not touching anything we were not supposed to. She had nice things all over her home but we were not to touch. Eventually thank goodness my mother stopped bringing us there for the holidays as she realized how impossible it was for us there. We were treated like second class citizens.

I often wonder now if I do that to my children? I want them to grow up with a healthy respect for the belongings of others. I want them to behave properly when we are at someone else's home, but I worry sometimes that they feel too constrained when we visit. Boy I hope not.

Why am I talking about this stuff? I should be talking about the joy of Christmas. I should be sharing all the happy moments that we had. We did have many happy moments. So why am I tramping down unhappy memory lane? Why am I dragging out stuff about my long-dead grandparents now?

Probably because I feel guilty and I do think about them. I wish I could muster some positive memories of them. I mean, it's not like they were drowning kitties when we were at their home. It's just that there are too many negative memories of them, and they clutter up the memory spaces so much that the good memories, if there are any, are shoved into a dim corner. I truly wish that I could think of one time that I enjoyed being with them. One good memory that might offset the bad stuff. But I really can't.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged," I think. Well, I guess in this case God will be judging me rather harshly as I cannot in all honesty think of one good memory. I cannot say one thing that will redeem my recall of them. All I can say is that to my knowledge they never killed anyone. So I guess there is that.

Why am I thinking about all this? Why can I not focus on the really good stuff? I don't really have an answer for you. I get depressed every year during the holidays, and I have never really understood why. Maybe this is part of my attempt to understand why. Maybe I get depressed because I look at the people who have been in my family and know that it could have been oh so different if they had been willing to extend themselves even a little bit. Or someone had taught me how to see how they extended themselves. Maybe that is what is needed. Maybe I need to borrow my mother's rose colored glasses every now and then and try to see good in people. Is that what she is doing when she talks so fondly of her parents? Is she trying to see the good in them? Or is she just being willfully blind?

I didn't start writing this post to slam my grandparents. Really. I was intending to write about Christmas for our family, which was indeed a fun, happy and positive time. We woke up, had our traditional Christmas breakfast (I usually make pancakes or waffles from scratch) and then we opened our gifts. After we exchanged gifts we got dressed and went to my in-laws to exchange gifts with them. They were their usual gracious and warm selves. I got to spend some time chatting with my sister-in-law which I don't get to do very often, and it was nice to have coffee and pie with my mother-in-law. My children got to give what they had picked out to their family and help with dinner as they were able.

I had to work Christmas night, so we left around eight o'clock. I fell asleep for the ride home and was deeply asleep for most of the ride. This would have been the case for the whole ride except we hit a humongous pot hole on the road and it kicked off our fuel pump. Our minivan stopped dead on the highway in the fast lane of traffic. The result was a ride in a state police cruiser to get my children to safety, after which we were able to drive our van home. The state trooper was very friendly and accommodating thank goodness.

So why the talk about grandparents long dead and gone? I think its because the longer I am a parent and watch my husband's parents be grandparents, the more I see what grandparents should be. They love their grandchildren. They take care of them the best way they know how and they do right by them. Like Steve's parents do. I am so proud to call them my in-laws. I know that I can count on them. I know that if we are ever in trouble that they are there for us. I know that about Steve's brothers too. They are good, strong, men of character (they would make all kinds of blustery jokes about this if they read it, but its true). They were the first ones offering to help when we might be stranded Christmas night by the side of the highway. They let us know they would help us immediately if that were necessary. That kind of security and caring is priceless. I only wish I was as good a person as they are. I can only strive to be that good. Maybe my kids will learn from their example and not see my shortcomings. One can hope.

I will write more some other time, but for now I need to sign off. My husband is downstairs by himself. I should probably spend some time with him. I want to let him know how important he is and I doubt leaving him alone tells him anything about how important he is to me.

Here are my five things that I am grateful for today though:

1.) I am grateful that police officers take their charge to protect and serve seriously
2.) I am grateful that I have the brothers-in-law that I do
3.) I am grateful that my mother in law is a good cook
4.) I am grateful that we have loving caring family
5.) I am grateful for the kennel that is taking care of my dog Brady while I visit other family members. I will tell you about it some time soon.

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