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You Might Call Me the Grinch This Year

December 23, 2011

Christmas is coming. Nothing will stop it. Nothing will diminish it. Nothing will change it. It will be here on Sunday. “Fah-who-foraze, Dah-who-doraze, welcome Christmas, come this way.” But, like The Grinch, there are those who don’t relish the idea of dealing with it. For various reasons, they don’t want to hear the songs, see the advertisements, share in the festivities, or revel in the joy that can be had.

It is a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones, who have no “home” to go to, whose families are torn apart for whatever reason. For people who are alone, it can be one of the worst and most lonely times of year.

Even I find myself in an odd emotional place this year…

I did my last Christmas luncheon for my staff under the division I led that is shifting into another division. It was our fifth, and last, year to do it in my home. It had become a tradition that we all looked forward to. I got to cook a lovely lunch and serve them to show my appreciation of them, not just for the work they do, but the people they are. It’s been an emotional time for me and for them, as they will no longer report to me, and our division we worked so hard to build, will not be a stand-alone division anymore. And last week the date was given to us for the final shift.

This might seem silly to some, but in many ways we’d become family. And no, it’s not like they are moving away and we’ll never see each other again. We will all still be on the same hall. But with big change also comes grieving. It doesn’t matter that it offers us all some incredible opportunities, at least not yet. That will matter. In time. Right now, what matters is the sadness, and honoring that our work lives are changing dramatically.

Another reason for my emotionally odd place is my parents are aging, and my mother’s sisters, who I’ve spent every Christmas in memory with, are also aging. My extended family has grown, and it’s now harder for everyone to come together for the holiday. It’s not that this aging is a surprise, or a sudden thing. But it is almost as though you wake up one day, and suddenly your parents aren’t the physically strong and solid people they once were. Believe me, it changes things.

This year, we didn’t have a family Thanksgiving because of illness, and inability to pull everyone together. It’s the first time that’s ever happened, and I foresee in not so many years, possibly even next year, that will happen at Christmas as well. This year, only the sisters are coming together – not the cousins and children.

It’s emotionally heartbreaking for me. As a single woman with no kids and no significant other – those gatherings mean a lot to me. It’s almost “not” Christmas without them. I’ll go to my parents for the weekend, and it will be enjoyable – don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly blessed with lovely friends and my parents are alive and relatively healthy – but the whole dynamic is changed without the rest.

As we get older, the holidays become a time of not only enjoying family, but also of missing those who have gone on before us. My grandparents on both sides, aunts and uncles on my dad’s side are gone. And it’s not that they aren’t missed at other times, but it becomes more acute at the holidays.

As the years find me with fewer family members able to be around at the holidays, it draws into sharp reflection, what will I do when my parents are gone?

Why am I pondering such a question at this point, when it’s really not an issue? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because a friend of mine’s blog, Writing for Your Supper, asked a question this week about Christmas memories. Maybe it’s because we had to “skip” Thanksgiving this year. Maybe it’s because I’m not being real about my feelings about my own aging. Whatever the reason, this year, I find myself in an odd place. Not really all that joyful, or even happy.

Because of how I’m feeling this year, I find myself more tolerant of those who aren’t all that exuberant about the holiday season. And, I would pose to you – when you run into those this year who are less than happy about Christmas, cut them some slack. There could be some really valid reason they feel the way they do. They may not be trying to ruin it for anyone else; they may just be struggling with their own emotions around the season, around dashed hopes and expectations and lost loved ones. Sometimes the season of joy needs to also be the season of compassion and empathy.

Cathy Lynn

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