Dad's Last Christmas, Version 8.0
2005-12-20, 9:13 a.m.
One of the extremely weird things about my life since Dad got sick is the concept of "Dad's last Christmas." I've had to live with every year being the possible last one. (Which made it all the more fun to argue with Dave about how he wanted to spend Christmas together. When you have "Dad's Last Christmas" always hanging over your head, well... you feel guilty even contemplating not being with the family for a year.)
And in a way, they were all last ones. Like early on, we had "Dad's last Christmas while he can still walk," "Dad's last Christmas with a walker," etc. Later on we had "Dad's last Christmas where we put the trains up," and "Dad's last Christmas during which we managed to get a tree up before Christmas."
Last year, as it turns out, was "Dad's last Christmas at home with the family." I can't say any of us expected that to be the last year for that. It was really pretty sad and horrible (it made the Christmas before that "Dad's last Christmas in which we can still give gifts to each other before Christmas is over."), but we still figured there'd be a year or two left of things being that bad. I am not kidding when I say that I had figured that actually celebrating Christmas with decorations and presents while Dad was still alive had gone out of the window at that point.
Now we've got "Dad's First Christmas In The Hospital," "Dad's First Christmas In Which We Can't Get Him Presents Any More," and what MIGHT someday turn out to be "Dad's Last Christmas For Real" going on. Not to mention "Mom and Jen's First Christmas Without Dad (Sorta)," which someday will turn into "Mom and Jen's First Christmas Without Dad For Real." Whee.
We never expected that we'd have this kind of gradation when it came to the concept of "last Christmas."
I am really glad that we are doing something different for Christmas this year besides visiting the PITA's. It won't be out first Christmas with the nice relatives (we swapped who had Thanksgiving and Christmas a few years back for reasons I no longer recall), but it'll be good to be Somewhere Else but at home. If you're not in the same old home, doing the same old things but with things drastically changed...well, I think it'll help to have EVERYTHING different instead of one glaringly major thing.
This past Thanksgiving, a.k.a. "Dad's First Thanksgiving In The Hospital," and "Mom and Jen's First Thanksgiving Without Dad (Sorta)," was actually good. Okay, not good at all on the Dad side, since he can't even eat any more, but without him, things were...normal. We felt like actual people again. Ones who have lives that don't revolve around taking someone to the toilet for an hour at a time, or for feeding someone for four hours straight. We could actually DO holiday-related stuff because we didn't run out of time between feedings and changings and bathroom trips. Life didn't boil down to food and toilet and television.
In some respects, I am looking forward to Christmas without Dad, because we can do stuff again. But in other respects, it's just depressing and people cry. And as for the hospital... well, visiting Dad there puts the kibosh on even a good day. Sitting there for hours in a freezing cold room (they've always got the air conditioning on, plus a fan, plus have the window open...I know we're in California, but it's just not that hot in DECEMBER. Yes, I know you want to clear out the smell of fecal matter, but at some point you CAN turn the air off. Or at least give him some fucking blankets.) staring at the television and even Mom doesn't know what to say any more. That certainly isn't Christmas. Especially when he's so sick that he can't do anything with gifts any more, can't so much as hold a gift, and we can't leave stuff around the hospital.
The entire hospital experience for me is an "I'm fine" one. I try to hold my shit together as best I can because we can't both fall apart at once and I think Mom has dibs on that over me for eternity. Then after we leave she keeps asking me if I'm fine, and I snap at her that I am, and she keeps on asking because clearly, I'm bothered, and I finally yell that I'm as fine as I'm going to get and there's not a damned thing she can do to help me feel REALLY fine and can't we just drop it already?
I can't say I'm looking forward to that every day of the holiday season.