I was feeling a little conflicted about writing tonight but I’ve got a little time before um, Santa arrives later.
I went to the hospital today to see Mom for a bit and while she is progressing as well as expected, it’s still hard to see her lying in that bed totally helpless. Maybe it’s because this is the woman that raised her two boys single-handedly without asking for any help, that worked multiple jobs to keep things afloat, that bought whatever it was my brother and I needed in order to survive.
Or maybe it was just because of the timing of her surgery and its proximity to Christmas and knowing she won’t be sharing it with us this year.
Whatever the case may be, while I had been good emotionally up to today’s visit, I began to sob as I sat next to Mom.
It was a mix of emotions: anger, sadness, furstration (frustration, apparently to the point where I forgot how to spell the damned word). I had bottled all of these up for so long in my efforts to be the strong father and husband I am supposed to be but as Dr. Laura is fond of saying, “I can’t fix normal.”
Mom consoled me as she lay, telling me it’ll take some time but she will get better. I know it’s true but it’s still difficult and I won’t believe it until she’s home and well.
I stayed with her for a few hours until I had to get going since Ann’s folks were taking us to our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. I had mentioned that I still had to head over to the cemetery to say hello to Dad and grandfolks. She told me to bypass the trip; I shouldn’t subject myself to any more emotional violence for the day.
I pulled up to the cemetery gates and meandered right to Dad’s gravesite. It began to sprinkle but it didn’t matter; the tears welling in my eyes were already turning my vision to mush.
“Chistmas is gonna suck this year, Dad,” I said as I looked down at his headstone. “You’re gone, Mom’s in the hospital…neither one of you is going to be with us this time.”
The rain began to fall a bit harder and I was getting pissed off, but not necessarily about the weather. “This fucking sucks, Dad.” I said my goodbyes and left.
Before I left for the hospital, Ann had reminded me to head over to Walgreens to buy The Kid those crazy Bendaroos he’d been wanting so badly. They would make a great stocking stuffer. So I pulled into the only space I could find and entered the store.
I grabbed the last box and saw the lines were way, way long. I then wandered over to the photo lab–there was nobody in line there–and paid for my purchase. I thought that was pretty sneaky, and those people are probably still waiting in line.
While getting back into the Escape, I noticed something on the ground next to my door. I didn’t notice it when I stepped out to go into the store which made things even more surreal. I picked it up and thought, “The Kid will probably like this.” He likes when I find random stuff.
But I’m not so sure if this was random. I then sat in the truck and thought to myself, “…oh.” I was pretty much speechless after that.
So what was it that shut me up?
A U.S. Army uniform patch. Whether this was a mere conicidence or some kind of strange signal from afar is anybody’s guess, but it definitely put things in perspective: Mom will get better, Dad will always be with me, and Christmas will never, ever suck as long as I can be surrounded by my family and friends, which will be the case tomorrow–even if Mom and Dad can’t physically be there.
Oh, one more thing. Here’s what Dad’s headstone reads:
SGT. U.S. ARMY
DEC 24, 1934 — MAY 18, 1976
Today would have been his 74th birthday. Strange.
The patch is still sitting on the keyboard where I took that photo. The Kid is watching SpongeBob in anticipation of Santa’s late-night visit.
And I’m beginning to feel better about things.
Thanks, Dad. And a Merry Christmas to all.
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