I got a tweet awhile ago from a guy named Sween. It said "My ideal job would have 2 desks. One for work and one for flipping over in blind rages." It made me laugh because I can see that scene from so many movies where somebody flips a desk or a table or whatever over in a fit of rage.
And I chuckled because I can see myself doing that. In my youth I was a thrower. I slammed my bedroom door so many times I loosened the brace thing and one day it simply fell. After the subsequent conversation i stopped slamming doors.
I broke the turn signal knob off my first car in a fit of anger. I was so embarassed afterwards that I didn't tell anyone about it. I simply took the knob and stuck it in my glove compartment. I had enough of the base of the knob to use that to signal with. My dad had to drive my car once and asked me about it, that is probably the only reason anyone ever knew I had done that.
I cracked the antenna on that mini antenna knobby thing that used to come on cell phones because I would throw it across the car in anger. Or I would throw it into the passenger floor board.
After admitting the cell phone thing to a friend she pointed out I should get rid of that habit because it's not a large leap from throwing a cell phone at the passenger door to throwing a plate at a husband. I didn't take her advice to heart immediately, but very shortly after I started forcing myself to stop throwing things.
For awhile I cried when I was angry. Almost exclusively in private. Until I started working as a guard in a juvenile prison. Crying from anger or frustration or despair or compassion was simply not going to work in that environment. So I learned a different coping mechanism. Swearing. It was, for me, a way of accurately expressing how I felt. You don't have to agree with me, but sometimes it just makes you feel better to drop the f-word. Sometimes fudge or flock or darnit just doesn't cut it. Brad Stein says that Christians should have their own swear words because "if you slam your hand in the car door, somethin' is comin' out of your mouth."
After I left the prison it took me a year or more to realize I had even shifted coping mechanisms at all. It took me quite awhile to retrain myself back to crying. Even now I swear way more than I ought to. But, believe it or not, God and I are starting to work on that. Just starting to get into some of the hard places that it comes from, so please be gentle with me.
All of this to say:
Tomorrow is my first Christmas without my Dad. I told a friend this afternoon that the pain is less sharp than it used to be. And this afternoon when i sent that text, it was true. But tonite, as I sit here facing Christmas Eve with just my sister and my mom, it's not less sharp, it's a different sharp.
Is one of us going to sit in his chair?
Will we still do our traditional family photo?
Will I make it through the next 24 hours without completely losing it? I can handle a few tears with Mom and Sister, but I don't want to have a full-blown ten-steps-past-the-ugly-cry kind of breakdown in front of them.
I spent a wonderful day and evening with wonderful friends. Friends who freely admit they don't truly "understand" what I'm going through but have walked this path with me more than anyone other than family has. They were exactly the "therapy" I needed tonite. I puttered around a bit when I got home, tidying up my schtuff. And I walked past an end table I have. One of the plants I got from my Dad's funeral is on it. The plant is growing like crazy. (I don't know what is better than a Green Thumb, but I have that). I tend to touch or pet my plants. I have two African violets and I love to take a few seconds and run my hands along their leaves to feel that fuzziness. I sometimes just touch the leaves of my other plants as I walk past. As I passed this particular plant tonight I had a moment's thought of running my hand over the leaves, but I have a bunch of stuff piled in front of the end table so I couldn't really reach the plant. And just as quickly as I dismissed the idea of petting my plant, I had a strong but fleeting thought that I don't WANT the plant. I had an image in my mind of picking up the pot and hurling it against something so that it breaks into a bunch of pieces.
But I have already trained myself out of throwing. More importantly, destroying this plant does not change my reality. Even if I broke the plant. Even if I cleaned up the mess. Or if I had someone else clean up the mess. Even if I set the thing on fire or threw it into the street or any other destructive thing I can think of. My Dad is still dead. He still won't be at the house tomorrow when I get there. He still won't call me from his cell phone with a computer question. He still won't be in "his" room playing spider solitaire and watching movies on TV.
As amused as I am by that tweet I mentioned at the opening of this post. I know that destroying or even damaging something won't change the fact that my world no longer has my Dad. So, I will write this up and take my chances posting it on Christmas Eve. I will cry hard after I hit publish and try to deal with these feelings now so I can be less fragile tomorrow. And I will sleep.
And tomorrow I will love my family. I will let my loved ones know that I care, that they mean something to me, that I am glad they are a part of my life. Because none of us can guarantee that those loved ones will even make it to New Year's much less make it to next Christmas. If you had told me a year ago that in less than 4 months my Dad would be dead, I probably would have punched you. I would have told you to shut your mouth and not speak that into my life. I don't truly have any regrets, but I do wonder if I would have done anything differently if I had known it would be our last Christmas as a family of 4.
Take the moments this Christmas to kiss your daddies and hug your mommas and squeeze the babies. Say that you love them, out loud. take their face in your hands and look them in the eyes and make sure they hear you. Tell them how much they mean to you. Don't take any chances this year by leaving something that important unsaid. Don't be in a rush to get to the next thing. Savor the moments. Note the scenes around you. Store up the memories for later. You may need them sooner than you think.