I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

More holiday musings

mom and dad

My parents

I honestly don’t have much of an idea today. I think I vented so much yesterday that now my brain is tired. My husband is annoyed with me for insisting that I am not traveling for Christmas, but he will get over it. Especially when we save a bunch of money on not kenneling the dogs. Actually when he heard I wasn’t going, my son said he wanted to stay home with me-something we’ve done before-so it will be interesting to see if he does. It’s not like my husband’s grandmother or mother really want to see him, or at least not for more than a couple of minutes, because they don’t really get him at all. And Alex doesn’t like going to my husband’s grandmother’s house at all. He likes to have everything on: the lights, the TV, his Kindle, the computer, another TV. He LOVES having a screen in front of him at all times. My husband’s grandmother spends the whole time Alex is at her house telling him to turn things off. It drives him crazy! He wants all the TV’s in every room on, and yes, he is watching his Kindle AND the TV because that’s what he does to tune out everyone else. She can’t let it go, she’s on about her electric bill all the time, and is constantly making Alex go turn things off.  My husband even yelled at her about it once. He told her that if she could afford to go to Europe twice in one summer she could afford for the TV’s to be on for a few hours. That didn’t go over well,  but even that didn’t stop her from demanding our presence at Christmas again and I’m not having it, and hopefully I can protect Alex from it too. He and I can watch all the TVs and eat pizza while my husband deals with his relatives. That would be ideal for both of us.

I have been thinking about how I’d like to visit my own family. I haven’t seen them in over a year. I don’t know how it got that long, Audrey and I usually go in the summer for about ten days, but it didn’t work out this year. Part of the problem was that my brother-in-law didn’t have his two-week national guard drill–that’s when we usually visit, in order to not drive him crazy. And then my mother wanted to come here, which my sister and I knew wasn’t going to happen, but she really wanted to.  My dad is 85, he doesn’t travel anymore. The last time they were here was 2005, and I gave them all the stomach flu (seems to be a recurring theme?). I’ve tried to convince them to come on the airplane, because dad used to like to fly, and there is much less risk of blood clots with that than with the twelve-hour drive. But he hasn’t flown since 9/11 and I think the new security stuff scares him a little and the dogs can’t come on the plane with him, and he absolutely will not kennel his babies. Dad was the other reason I didn’t visit. Every time I brought it up he was worried about the dogs getting upset, or the septic tank, or the well.  The idea just seemed to stress him out.  So it just never felt like there was a convenient time to go and stay at my parents’ or my sister’s house. My sister also informed me she had a brown recluse problem in her upstairs bedroom, which is where I sleep, so if she wanted to keep me away that is the way to do it. Oh my do I hate spiders.

So now it’s been a year and a half at least, and my parents have two new dogs, and they’ve redone their living room, and my mom got hearing aids (yay!) and I haven’t seen any of it. And my nieces have grown so much they probably won’t even recognize me. It was my choice to live here and be this far away, and I don’t regret that most of the time, but thinking about the holidays makes it a little hard. Honestly, just acknowledging that my parents are getting older is hard. And I know that I am luckier than I lot of people, having dad be 85 and really doing pretty well.  I should just appreciate that, even if it is from a distance. But it would be nice to be home for Christmas.

Family

Me, my sister, my mom, my dad, and the granddaughters. Surprising my dad with a celebration of 70 years of church work (He started playing church services when he was 12)

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Bah, Humbug!

Christmas mug

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Not just because of presents, although they were awesome, but because it really was a magical time. When you grow up in the church you get lots of time to anticipate Christmas while practicing for the Christmas Eve program at school, and doing Advent calendars, and finally moving into the New Testament in religion class. When your parents work for your church and a Lutheran college you get even more anticipation with extra services and Christmas concerts and recitals and your dad practicing Christmas hymns on the piano (and Christmas hymns are just Christmas carols so it’s kind of like having your own piano bar accompanist for the holidays).  Lutherans are similar to Catholics in some ways, but not when it comes to singing, we LOVE to sing, and Christmas services are a great time to be a kid in a Lutheran church, so many awesome songs: Joy to the World, Angels we Have Heard on High, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and if you’re lucky, Go! Tell it on the Mountain. And of course there were cookies and homemade candy. My mom baked, my mom’s piano students baked for her, people at church baked for dad, even some of his students gave him baked goods. The wealth of sweets at Christmas was truly amazing. But Christmas Eve was the best. The program was always in the evening at our church, and there were fancy Christmas dresses (My mom made the most amazing Gunne Sax dress by hand one year: I’ll never forget it, it had big leg of mutton sleeves, and a ribbon and lace edged neckline with a row of tiny buttons with loops down the front–making that dress was the first time I heard my mom swear, but it was fantastic.) and hair-dos, and my brother even had to wear a tie. The  programs themselves  all kind of run together: (except one where I had a big coughing fit up front and had to leave in front of everyone, childhood strep reared its ugly head again) there were carols and Luke chapter 2 and Mary and Joseph. And on our way out one of the church elders would give each kid a white paper bag full of candy and an orange.   My brother and sister and I would wait for our dad to be done playing the postlude and packing up his organ shoes while our mom took the other car home;  we’d take a drive around to look at Christmas lights on the way home. When we got to our house we’d walk in to our family room where the tree was and it would be lit and the presents would be there,  like Santa had actually been there while we were at church. It took us years to figure out that it had been first my grandparents, and then my mom, who put the presents under the tree while we “looked at lights”. And even after we knew, and had moved several times, we would drop my mom off after church, drive around for a while, and come home to presents under the tree. It’s just one of our traditions.

Then I met my husband, and Christmas with his family is a WHOLE other deal. It involves piles and piles of presents and even more alcohol.  The first few years all the booze made things pretty funny; then I started to notice the bickering and veiled insults that went with it.  As years went on and life brought tragedies the insults became less veiled and the bickering got meaner. There’s still a lot of presents though. There are so many presents that one year my  husband’s cousin accidentally threw out the leather gloves I got her with the trash because she didn’t see them (and then complained to my husband’s grandmother that I didn’t get her anything).  My husband’s mom wraps stuff and then doesn’t remember what it is or who it’s for. She also wraps things for herself. There’s no real thoughtfulness to the gifts themselves, I don’t think, because my husband has gotten the same sweatshirt two years in a row (two identical sweatshirts, two separate Christmases) as well as a pile of other shirts that he will never wear. I’ve received a lotion from my mother in law that I had given her the previous year, and one that my husband’s grandmother had given her previously. My kids receive all kinds of things that don’t remotely interest them or that are completely not age appropriate. They are always yelled at for not saying “thank you” enough,  and so am I, but I think we’re just stunned by some of the craziness of it all.

A few years ago, after driving on glare ice for a large part of the trip to the Twin Cities, we said no more. We were going to spend Christmas in our own home, so our kids could have their own tree and not be dragged all over during their break. And we made that happen for a couple of years. And then we got the “but  I might  not be here next year” speech from my husband’s grandmother, so we agreed to go in for Christmas Eve 2012, even though I had had stomach surgery three weeks prior and Alex came down with the stomach flu two days before were supposed to leave. We should have stayed home, because the night we checked into the hotel my daughter threw up ALL OVER. And the next day I cooked for everyone anyway, a prime rib that I couldn’t even swallow yet because my stomach was still healing. (Only my husband’s step dad thought this was odd, and he helped me in the kitchen all day.)  Right before they started in on presents I realized I did NOT feel good and had my husband take me back to the hotel.  That was the start of my near death experience. My  surgery (a Nissen Fundoplication) makes it so NOTHING goes up your esophagus: great for getting rid of acid reflux, bad if you get the stomach flu from your kids. So I went from being in a little pain to being absolutely convinced I was going to die. and I was out of anti-nausea drugs. All I wanted was to get some Zofran so I would stop wanting to hurl and not being able to, and stop feeling so much pain. But did we go to the ER or urgent care? NO. My husband took his grandmother tile shopping at Home Depot because that was super urgent. Then he visited his dad who was feeling neglected. By the time I went to the ER when we got home 3 days later they were like “what took you so long?” but all of the sutures held and there was no bleeding. So I was miserable but lucky.

But I’m done.  I will not be talked in to any more Christmases that I don’t want to participate in. If it’s just me and the dogs and the chickens I’m cool with that. At least that’s genuine.

My tree