So I’m suddenly feeling a little ashamed. I’ve been acting like a spoiled brat.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I am reluctant to face change, especially where my children are concerned. I look to the next few years when they will be leaving the nest with a mixture of fear and sadness for years that have passed too quickly. So it’s probably no surprise that over the past few days, since I learned that Brad won’t be coming home for Christmas, I’ve been wallowing in a vat of self-pity. I’d convinced myself that my 21 year-old son not coming home for the year’s biggest holiday, in combination with my husband’s having to work a 12-hour shift on said holiday was justification for an extended pity-party. And believe me, I was partying.
I hadn’t actually heard from Brad that he wasn’t planning to be home for Christmas. It was Mark who had informed me of this plan after he had talked with Brad’s girlfriend, Heather. A part of me was holding out hope that once I talked to Brad, he would inform me that it was all a big misunderstanding. So while driving to bowling last night, I dialed up Brad. (Kids, do as I say. Not as I do. You should not drive and dial a cell phone at the same time. Thank you.) So Brad answered and I tried to be very casual about my call, asking him when he’d be home for Thanksgiving and then also very casually asking, “And you’re spending all of Christmas with Heather’s family?”
He very nonchalantly told me that was correct. (He clearly had no idea he was breaking my heart and that my heart has no sense of fairness or logic. Heather spent all of Christmas last year with us. It’s her family’s turn. But my heart doesn’t grasp that concept.) I gave none of this away as I said, “But you’ll be coming back for New Year’s and spending a few days at home, right?”
“Well….,” came the reply.
“Well? Well??? What is with this well business?” I thought.
“That depends,” he continued. “I might have to get back to Fargo for work.”
Damn. I’d forgotten about his new job; the one I’d pushed him to get when he called home one too many times looking for money from us to fund a weekend hunting trip. We told him we were more than happy to pay for gas, groceries, rent and such. But with a third child heading toward college, if he wanted to hunt, he was going to have to pay the expenses himself. So he got a job.
Employers probably aren’t so willing to let their college student employees have a month off so they can go home to visit Mommy.
I didn’t let Brad know how devastated I was. He has no idea what a big deal this is to me, just as when I was nineteen years old, I had no idea how hard it must have been for my parents when I preferred to spend Christmas in Texas with a boyfriend than at home. (Although, on Christmas Eve that year, I realized just how much I’d really rather have been at home.)
I hung up the phone with renewed sadness, appeased only for a short while by a few hours of bowling with the girls and a couple of beers.
A busy morning at work today kept me from thinking about it too much and then a conversation with a couple of coworkers sparked my indignation all over again at the unfairness of it all. I’m not sure where the conversation began, but it spanned parenting, and holidays, tradition and family dysfunction. And it fanned the flames of my pity party. While other families will spend Christmas together, dysfunctional or not, I will be spending yet another holiday without a husband and now without my oldest son!
As the conversation continued, one coworker described some very difficult years in her family’s life. She talked about how they had to make the decision to walk away from a secure job and a comfortable home. This decision was a life saving measure for an alcoholic husband who saw himself turning back to the bottle due to the stress of his job. They ended up living in a low-income apartment for several years with two teenage kids. My coworker was pointing out the irony of the situation while at the same time, a realization seemed to come over her and she said, “…but you know, those were some of the best years of my life. I learned some hard lessons and times were tough, but those were good years.”
Suddenly, I was very, very ashamed. I have several former coworkers who were recently laid off. There are people all over the country who are unemployed or underemployed with no relief in sight. I’ll bet most of them would gladly work or see their spouse off to work for 12 hours on Christmas day rather than face another week without a paycheck.
There are men and women in the military who give up their Christmases for the sake of not only their immediate families but for the entire country.
There are those whose loved ones won’t be with them on Christmas this year or ever again. They won’t wake up the day after Christmas knowing that their sons or husbands or daughters or wives will come walking through the front door again soon.
What right do I have to feel so sorry for myself? What message am I sending to my other two children when I make it seem as if Christmas isn’t worth celebrating if I can’t have it my way? So Christmas won’t be the same this year. It’s going to be different. I’m just going to have to figure out how to make it a good kind of different. It’s taken me a few days, but I’m over it now. Because I really don’t have it so bad.