Conversations with an empty chair (4.5) - A Christmas Story

Christmas 1990: You help my sister and me decorate the Christmas tree, because we’re so...
little. You film us, laughing all the time. Mom takes us shopping for ornaments. I pick a little wooden angel that looks like a cartoon. You still have it, all these years later. You buy us presents, you help us open them, you sit at the piano and make us sing Christmas carols. I’m happy, I’m safe. What more could I need? 

Christmas 1996: You take us on a trip to the mountains to play with the snow. I fling snowballs at the back of your head when you’ve turned around, but you’re always quicker than me. You’ll learn, you tell me. It’s all a trick. See? I try to learn, but I’m not as good as you. And I don’t mind. I don’t expect ever to be as good as you.

Christmas 1998: I’m sad and moody, like all teenagers are. You take us shopping to the Christmas village, you buy me books. You buy me a pendant. You’re thinking, you’re becoming a woman now, that’s a gift for a woman. I’m thinking, I’ll always be your little girl.

Christmas 2002: I’m at university now, and you’re wondering if I’ll spend the holidays with my friends. But I spend every second at home with you and mom and my little brother. Drinking you in, all of you. I’m safe here, this is where I belong. I’ve missed you so much.

Christmas 2007: I come to your home (I’ve moved away now, and it sucks being away from you, but we’re all pretending it doesn’t) fifteen days before Christmas to help decorate the Christmas tree. It’s as lovely as ever, my childhood ornaments still alive (mostly). You climb on top of the kitchen island to hang fairy lights on the ceiling. You always were crazy. It was one of the things I love about you.

Christmas 2011: It’s snowing outside your hospital room. I usually love the snow, but not this year. I send a silent prayer that it will snow again next year. when we can all enjoy it together, and I can try to surprise you with a snowball you won’t see coming. But it will never happen.

Christmas 2012: My brother and I hung up the fairylights on the ceiling, because you can’t. On Christmas day they take you to the hospital, because you’ve got a fever, but by noon you’re home and we eat everything. You mostly watch us -your appetite is gone. In the evening we exchange gifts. You buy me the most expensive perfume you could find. I haven’t worn it still. I buy you a notebook, because that’s what writers love. Only the first page is written now. The rest will be forever blank.

Christmas 2013: Your photo is on the shelf, looking down at us. We change the place of the tree, we don’t hang up the fairylights on the ceiling. We can’t stand anything that will remind us of how it used to be. But we still celebrate Christmas. You’d hate it if we stopped living because you were gone. We wipe our tears in the bathroom and put on a brave smile for each other. We survive. Only just.

Christmas 2016: I have to pinch myself to stop crying. I have to inflict a greater pain than your absence, or I won’t be able to breathe. We sing carols, we have our traditional Christmas play. I burn a cd of Christmas songs, like I do every year, with Sarah McLahlan’s RIVER, and name the cd “Christmas without you”. It’s already been so long since you’ve gone. Will the pain every stop? Will your absence? You’d be so proud, I know, to see how well we’re surviving. We’re active, we even smile sometimes. At nights we cry our eyes out. I write about you - I write to you. But it doesn’t help ease the pain. 

I don’t want 2017 to come. I know it’s silly, but it will take me another year further away from the last time I saw you. I hate that. 

It will also take me closer to the moment I’ll see you again, in heaven. That’s all that keeps me going.

You’d be so proud of me, I know. Keeping on, in spite of the pain. Working, writing, living. But, deep down inside, I don’t want you to be proud. I want you to be here.

Deep down inside there’s a three-year-old’s voice, crying “I want my dad.”
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