My brother and the pup picked me up, drove me dozing home, and ushered me in to see a neon-pink Christmas tree – complete with matching tinsel and candy striped sugar canes.
We mulled our strategies for this first Christmas after dad’s death in advance, and agreed we wouldn’t try to reincarnate any other year, wouldn’t try to resurrect much-loved stories with the key character missing. It felt like time to set a new stage.
This year funny-awful seemed curiously apt, so the princess pink tree was just perfect. It was a good start to our efforts to start some new traditions of our own, to pitch for a different kind of Christmas.
My mum is away and the house is empty. But it is hard to feel alone when I keep finding her thoughts filling the fridge, bursting from the kitchen cupboards, knotted up amongst the decorations she took the time to hang, for a Christmas she knew she would miss.
I have not seen my friends in months but they’re with me too. I’ve found their affection packed up in paper and ribbon. I have felt held by kind words, felt warmer on a cold day to know I had been remembered, thought of, even thousands of miles away.
Of course, amongst all that I have, all I’ve come home to, there are empty spaces; the have nots, the memories that tug tears and choke.
My dad is very much in my thoughts, in my heart, brimming at the back of my eyes. I wish he was sat in his chair. I wish I could tease him for losing my presents, for wrapping them in a bin bag, for buying me the same thing as last year…
There are many things that have passed away. There are sadnesses enough to sink in. But I would be a fool to fuss and fret for long when I am so evidently, abundantly loved, when I see clear signs that love continues, springs unabated, unseen, unheard, long distance.
So I let the tears come and go like the showers that pit-patter the window panes with futile tantrums. They rage and rattle, howl and bluster, but they will not shake or shift the house.
I am snug in the simple truth that I have a great deal to be thankful for, blessings to honour with happiness.
I have thought a lot about the gifts I would like to give my dad this year, been moved to tears by things I knew he would love.
But there are still gifts I can give him. For him, I will try to strike another light, kindle it, be kind to it, blow it bright, and not sit longer than I need to in the grip of grief and the dark of the night.