Sunday, December 14, 2008


Evan needs me to pay his college tuition.

Katie wants me to edit a term paper.

Dad is waiting for me to put up the Christmas tree.

Mom is crying in frustration over her computer.

Like millions of women across this country, I'm sandwiched between my children and my parents, being nibbled to death.

As usual, I stopped in at Mom and Dad's Friday morning and ended up down in the sewing room with Mom for a bit. When I came up, my nephew had just brought up the Christmas tree for Dad. Dad saw me with my keys and said, "Oh, are you going already?"

I knew what he wanted but pretended not to notice his puppy-dog eyes so I could escape to my busy day, which included putting up my own tree. Evan came over as I was hauling up a 6-ft, 30-lb. plastic box from the basement. He stood in the foyer watching me struggle, wearing an air of Could you hurry up? I wrote the tuition check, he went on his not-so-merry way and I completed the dreaded task.

I purely hate putting up the tree. Bill left home in the middle of November and putting up the tree alone that first time was one of the saddest, loneliest things I have ever done. A lot of bright and beautiful has passed since that day, but every time I pull out the ornaments, I land back in that darkness and fear for a little while. Very Zen about it, though: I feel the grief but don't dwell in it. A couple of glasses of wine, a box or two of Kleenex, a couple of therapy sessions and I'm back on track.

No rest for the wicked and the righteous don't need it, my mom says. When I checked on Mom and Dad Saturday afternoon, their tree was still in a box sitting in the corner of the living room. Mom stopped dealing with the tree many years ago. Dad did it alone for a long time, but in the last few years, the ghosts of our childhoods lingering in the boxes of ornaments overwhelm him.

Mom and Dad went out to get a sandwich while I put up the tree and decorated it. What else could I do? They brought back a sandwich for the dog. I had a handful of tortilla chips.

The worst movies in the world are made about Christmas. They all have the same plot: an uptight, corrupt, or just-plain-mean person gets saved through the miraculous love and joy of Christmas. I watch them all. The smarmier, the better. Whoopi Goldberg as a little girl who blames Santa for her father's death in Viet Nam? Bring it on. Meredith Baxter dealing with the death of her son? Set the DVR. Starting in November, I watch every stupid moment of every stupid Christmas movie that comes on. Passes the time as I wait for my own miracle to find me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You can't wait for a miracle, you've got to BE the miracle. But first I've got to wash the mustard off my face. This sandwich gig gets ugly.


Doubting Thomas said...

Don't know what to say, sis.

Sorry you're hurting, and wish I had a way to make it better.

Good news: in just more than a week, the days will begin to lenthen.

Deb said...

Sending you love.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Love how you're eating sandwiches as you feel the "joys" of being sandwiched. Also love the part of the ghosts of the ornaments overwhelming your sweet dad.


luckyzmom said...

Wow, your post has just wrung my heart out like a damp dishtowel. I'm looking thru my memories to find the one that has put the damper on my birthday today. Oh, yeah, perhaps it was my Mom dying the day after our mutual birthday thirteen years ago. Thanks for inspiring me to investigate my gray mood. I can take a moment now, to feel the sadness and move on. Perhaps I'll move on to a sandwich.

Michelle O'Neil said...

That does it. I'm ordering the biggest most fattest sanwich and eating it in your honor.


Michelle O'Neil said...

As long as you're editing Katie's paper, would you mind editing my comments for spelling errors?

Thanks. No hurry. Just when you get a minute.

Anonymous said...

um... WHY do you put up a tree every year if you "purely hate it" ??? Who are you trying to please by plunging yourself "back in that darkness and fear"? Put a wreath on the door, or string some lights on the porch- festive without the grief. Sorry, I don't get it- stop with the tree if it makes you miserable!! Not obligatory.

Amber said...

You can't wait for a miracle, you've got to BE the miracle. --

love that.


Cape Cod Kitty said...

Your post about being sandwiched hit me so hard. You really captured what it feels like. I've been in that place for 40 years and once again I face the Christmas season, so much wanting to "feel the spirit" but having no energy left to do it. My Mom died on her birthday - 12/19 so we have that anniversary and what energy I have will go to shoring up my Dad so he can cope over this time...he is now 97! My children and grandchildren would surely like me to be able to produce a grand replication of what was, but I just cannot when my partner and others are in need of their own support. These days it is practically a full time job keeping my body somewhat fit to be able to keep up with all those around me in need, and the question of how to keep enough fuel in the emotional bank is rarely answered. It is day to day, looking for the minutest bright spots to keep me going. It sure helps a lot that I work with many energized young people who make me laugh everyday, and make me keep going. There will be little homemade treats for my loved ones and that is it. I will gift them by doing for them throughout the year. Thank you for giving voice to how I feel.

Go Mama said...

Anyone else thinking this?

"Gee, um, Evan, before I write that tuition check for you, would you mind lifting this thing for me? Yeah, right over there would be fine. Thanks, hun."

"Oh Mom, Dad, while you're out getting sammies for everyone including the dog, I'll take a turkey and swiss on sourdough, lightly toasted, hold the mayo...and a large bottle of chardonnay. Yeah, you can put that right next to the tree for me."

Sometimes I think if we're not doing for others, we don't even know who to be anymore. That's got to change.

Sending virtual mistletoe and a jug 'o rummy nog to go with that misery sandwich.

Terry said...

GREAT post!