This is a combination of two separate posts that I just couldn’t figure out how to get through, until now. Please forgive the time jumps.
Can’t we just skip Christmas?
No, we can’t. Because there are 2 children, ages 4 and 9, who can’t wait.
Me? I could wait forever.
Because these are just a few of the things that are making Christmas unbearable this year–this Christmas without Daddy breathing.
Daddy not breathing is unbearable.
And yet, there is more.
Every year, I make a book for my parents and Scott’s parents of pictures of the children. I make them for our parents, but one day, our kids will have them, and they are a chronology of their lives. Everyone who has ever met me knows how important “recording” is to me. And it just doesn’t seem fair to skip an entire year of recording just because their Charles left them.
However….their Charles breathed for 5 months and 22 days of this year, and so, in order to go back and start recording, I have to look at pictures of him with them.
And I don’t want to.
I started sorting the other day, and in trying to find the easiest, quickest way to sort, I tried by person. And for whatever reason, Daddy’s face ended up at the very top of my sort page, bigger than all the rest.
I felt myself start to have a panic attack, and I couldn’t get the page down fast enough.
A lot of you won’t understand this.
It may not make sense, but I’ll try:
I “see” his pictures all the time, but I can only glance at them. If I look too closely, I can see his cheeks really well, and I can feel the last time I kissed his right cheek.
It was the early evening on the night before he left, and he had taken Mac to get a hair cut. I came to pick Mac up at his and Mama’s house, and he and Mac met me in the garage. We were standing behind Mama’s car, and Mac had already hopped in my car, ready to go. I was on the bench that week, so I was brain-dead and tired, ready to just get home. I joked with him about Mac being demanding, or something of the sort, and we both kinda smirked as we always did….not having to say much, because we both just got it, got Mac, knew how much of a pain in the behind he could be, knew we would never change that part of him, knew that we would both still love him deeper than either of our hearts could handle.
But before I left, I told him thank you for taking Mac to get his hair cut, and I side-hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. His cheek wasn’t smooth, but it wasn’t sandpaper rough–I can still feel it…..and I hopped in my car and left.
The half-hug, kiss on the cheek, and good-bye was short. It was quick. It was not special.
It was, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
It was us.
And it was the last time I ever saw him.
It was the last time I ever spoke to him.
It was the last time I ever kissed his cheek.
And it isn’t enough.
It will never be enough.
It is ridiculous as to how not enough it is.
So I have no desire to look at that cheek up-close.
Not even a little bit.
Can I make the book without looking? I don’t know.
I’m going to try. I am.
But can I?
Not promising I can.
I didn’t make the book.
And then, there are the stockings. Will Mama hang them all, but not hang his?
Will there be a gaping hole where his should belong? Kinda like that empty space in every room in which he should be, every chair in which he should sit? Will it be like that?
Dear heavens, please Mama, don’t hang any stockings.
That is what I want to say but can’t. It is Mama’s mantle. It is her decision.
And there are 2 kids, ages 4 and 9, who are expecting stockings; there are 2 kids who won’t see a hole.
They will just see that theirs aren’t where they should be.
She didn’t hang the stockings. The kids didn’t notice. Theirs were full on Christmas morning, and they were thrilled. Thanks, Mama.
So on to presents.
Gah. I wish I wouldn’t get a single one….unless you can wrap my daddy up in pretty paper, tie him with a bow, and put him under the Christmas tree.
Because there is no thing on this Earth that I want for Christmas.
I just want my daddy back.
But there must be presents. I want there to be presents.
For everyone else.
My love language is gifts.
My mama’s love language is gifts.
And she is the best gift giver ever ever ever.
She is deliberate with her gifts.
I try to be deliberate with mine.
But this year, my head and heart just weren’t in gifts of any sort.
I usually have one good, special present for everyone. Not so much this year.
But Mac did. Mac did it right.
Mac watched me make canvases with stickers and spray paint, which got me through a lot of sad days. For me, they gave me moments of concentration on something that helped me not think about Daddy. They gave me something to focus on, to do.
For different reasons, Mac decided to make everyone’s Christmas presents using spray paint and canvases.
I told him to think of a saying, something the recipient always said to him or something he always said to them.
Reid’s said, “What’s Up Dude.” Because, that is what Reid always says to him.
Big’s was my favorite: “Can I come shoot your squirrels” Classic Mac.
His canvases probably saved Christmas of 2017.
He gave the special presents this year.
Because I didn’t have Daddy’s credit card this year, Mama’s Christmas was definitely different. Nothing too big for her. Because it was all “just from us.”
That made me sadder than sad.
Every Christmas, I bought Mama’s presents from Daddy, and Mama knew that, and she never liked it. She tolerated it, and sometimes, I got it really, really wrong. And it was awful. For me. Because I only wanted my mama to have everything she ever dreamed of.
I just wanted my daddy to dream it up for her.
But every few years, Daddy surprised all of us with something for Mama that we didn’t know about. Those were special Christmases, because he spoke her love language, even when it didn’t come naturally. And we loved him for loving her, out loud, in the way that we knew made her feel the most special.
I’ve never been prouder of my daddy than I was in those moments.
But in the off years, it always made me sadder than sad that Daddy never shopped for her unless we absolutely made him. And still, we picked things out, and he paid for them. Because he is our daddy and she is our mama, and we still wanted her to have special things.
We just wanted them to come from him.
But it was a trade off.
We did it for him because we love him.
And gifts are not his love language.
We did it for her because we love her.
And gifts are hers.
Hanging in the back of the guest room closet is a mauve sweatshirt from Express. When I was in high school, Daddy and I always took a few hours close to Christmas to go to the mall to shop for Mama. I would lead him to the stores with the items I thought she would want, but the choice of what we bought was always his…even though it was my idea. That just carried over as I got older. We skipped the mall, and I bought things and told him how much he owed me. I knew he liked that better. He hated the mall.
Actually, I hated the mall.
But I loved going shopping for my mama with him.
But one particular day, on one particular Christmas shopping trip for mama, we were passing the window of Express, and a mannequin was wearing this mauve sweatshirt. It had EXP on it wrapped in little flowers. He asked me if I liked it, and I said I did, even though I didn’t. He asked me if I wanted it, and I didn’t, but I said I did, because he said if he was me, he would want it.
So, I let him buy it for me. I wrapped it and put in under the tree.
And I still have it.
Because it is the only thing in my life I know that he saw, that he thought I would like, and that he bought—just for me.
He saw it and thought of me.
I don’t even know if I ever wore it, but I kept it.
Because that is a gift.
And gifts are my love language.
And for all of my life, I wanted anything to hold on to anything that told me my daddy loved me.
Because I loved him a truckload of flowery mauve Express sweatshirts.
And I did everything I could to give him something to remind him.
I made him calendars for his desk with quotes and song lyrics and memories written on them in colorful magic markers.
I gave him Beatles albums and frames to hang in his office.
I gave him white t-shirts with no pockets and something on the back because that is the kind he liked.
I made him mix tapes and mix cds of songs I knew he loved.
I gave him my words. I gave him the earliest copies of things I had written, because his opinion mattered the very most.
I gave him a jar of strips of paper that told him all the reasons I loved him, in case he ever needed to be reminded. I guess he didn’t think he needed to be reminded on June 22.
I gave him those things because gifts are my love language.
And the only tangible thing I have, specifically given to me from my daddy that never involved my mama, that showed me he loved me in my love language was an ugly mauve sweatshirt from Express.
Proof positive that it doesn’t matter what it is.
I certainly never saved it because I had some premonition that one day, my daddy would leave me on purpose.
I saved it because from the minute I wrapped it in the box and put it under the tree, with a tag on it that said, “To: Marsha; From: Daddy,” it became important. It became meaningful. It became special.
The tag may have read: To: Marsha; From: Daddy.
But what I heard was: I love you.
My daddy did a whole lot of things for me in my life. He gave me a lot of things. He paid for a lot of things. He said a lot of things that mattered.
And they still matter. They matter big.
But one day, right before Christmas, while shopping for my mama, he bought me an ugly mauve sweatshirt from Express.
Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for this one thing, this one thing that you saw and thought I might like and then, you made sure I had it. Thank you for thinking of me.
Thank you for speaking my love language, even if it was only one time.
Because whether you knew it or not, that sweatshirt meant more than a student loan. It meant more than a bazillion lunches at Penn’s and suppers at Two Rivers. It meant more than the Ranger. It meant more than the fish camp. It meant more than the Sweet 16 ring Mama picked out and you paid for. It meant more than house before we could buy it from you.
If I could dare to want anything more than the ugly sweatshirt, it would be a letter.
All this to say: For the love, men, give your children something to which they can hold. It may be big, it may be small. It may cost a lot, or it may not. But please, think of them, buy them something, and let them know they matter to you through a gift….a gift from you, to them. Just them. Just you.
And even more than that: In your child’s lifetime, write them a letter. Write it with a pen or pencil. Let it be in your handwriting. Do it when they are born. Or do it when they turn six. Or do it when they turn sixteen. Or do it when they graduate from high school, or when they get married. Or when they have their first child.
Or do it on a random day, when you just look at them and see their innocence, see their potential, see their devotion, see their excitement, see them.
You may not decide to leave on purpose. But you might.
You may not decide to leave at all. But you will, anyway.
I beg you….
Give them something that, on those really dark, dark nights when they feel as if there is nothing left to console them, there is. They have that letter, that letter they have read a bazillion times, that letter they can read again.
That letter that brings back your voice through your words, no matter how long ago they were written. That letter can bring you back to them, and then they can hear, over and over, how much, on one day of their lives, how proud you were of them, or how full your heart was over their accomplishments, or how difficult it was to give them away as a bride or watch them take a bride and become a husband, or how much joy you felt as you watched them become a mother or a father.
Write. It. Down.
Just one time. Once, in their whole lives.
Give them one way to bring you close when they need you close.
Cause my daddy didn’t. Not once. Not ever.
And I wish he had.
Because I could use some of his words.
I could use some of his wisdom.
I could just use an “Atta Girl.”
If he was gonna leave me on purpose, it sure would be nice to be able to read something he wrote to me that reminded me………..
…….there was this one day in my life that made me so glad I am your daddy, and I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
I could use that about right now.
So yeah…Christmas. Presents. Stockings.
A sweatshirt from Express.
A non-existent letter.
It’s all wrapped up together, forever intertwined, like the blood in my veins which contains my DNA, of which, half belongs to him.
Of which, makes me, me.
A me that doesn’t know how to be.
A me that has lost my center.
Kinda like this rambling post.
Intertwined and connected, but lacking center.
Full of him.
Full of me…
…whomever me is.
Just buy the sweatshirt and write the letter.
Allow them to bring you back, whether you leave on purpose or just leave.
Do it for whomever your me is.