Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas to Remember

Christmas at Linda’s was a raging success. I had secretly been dreading it for weeks. The cloud of my mother’s passing still hangs over my family, and when we are all together, her absence feels heavy and oppressive. Add the emotion of Christmas to the mix and well, I wasn’t counting down the days.

It couldn’t possibly have gone any better. Linda was amazing. The house looked great, so festive and full of fun. We were crammed in there like sardines but the presence of so many little children diverted everyone’s attention from the congestion, and right before the blessing, Linda addressed the elephant in the room with eloquent grace. Yes, she said, we all miss Mom terribly. But we are all together on one of her favorite days of the year, so let us rejoice and be glad in it. Everyone took a breath and then Dad led us all in prayer. You couldn’t miss him. He was wearing a smart new striped shirt with a bright red sweater vest. Best looking 88 year old of all time. Every girl crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man, I believe the expression goes.

It should be pointed out here that the Dunnevant family is a musical tribe. At any gathering of more than 5 or 6 of us something musical usually happens. But yesterday we took it to the extreme. We broke out in song more often than the cast of “Glee”. First there was Cameron’s understated performance of “Old Toy Trains”. Then there was a marathon carol sing with yours truly playing the guitar and Paula pitching everything as an alto and Donnie insisting that Joy To The World should only be sung in the key of F…shhheeesh, everybody knows that! Then later there was Donnie’s yearly performance of the Ray Stephens classics, Santa Claus is Watching You and the politically incorrect Ahab the Arab.

Towards the end of the night, my brother shared a song that he had written three days after Mom died. It was written from her perspective and included the often repeated line, “don’t cry for me”. After he finished, my father, who had been largely quiet suddenly spoke in a surprisingly strong voice, “I don’t cry for her. But I do cry for me!” We all fell silent as he continued. “She was with me for 65 years. It’s hard to let her go.”

Leave it to my Dad to tell the unvarnished truth. Whenever people have said to me that my Mom is in a better place, I have wanted to yell, “Yeah, but I’m not!” To hear Dad say it, to know that he feels it, helped me let go of a bit of guilt, the guilt of insufficient faith.

Once again, Dad leads. We follow.