I thought it would be the Christmas decorations that I would have a hard time going through, seeing, remembering the memories attached to them, but it was the tidying of the house, organizing it, making room for Christmas that slapped me in the face with the reality of my life. It was the taking down of Kateri’s Birthday cards that have hung above my kitchen for nine months… and reading through them… seeing the words of friends and relatives giving my wife support… celebrating her life in a time when it was approaching the end… thirty-six days later… that threw me for a loop. The last card in the pile was from me… and I kinda had to take a sit on the floor. It was the tidying of the book shelf and finding pictures spanning the last twenty years… of horseback rides in the Tetons and snowmobile rides in the backcountry. Images of road trips to Ohio (where we said we would never go back to… and then went back 5 times), sailboat excursions in Maine, snowstorms, beaches, adventures with friends, and adventures for just the two of us. Images of sister in-laws when they were twelve, at their college graduation, and then from this year holding my wife… their sister… for one of the last times. Pictures of the various places we’ve lived in… from the Rocky Mountains to our little red schoolhouse in Vermont… pictures of various cabins and cottages filled with the richness of what was our life… pictures of our various homes. Snapshots of a life I don’t have anymore… and no Christmas miracle is gonna bring back my sweet sweet Kateri.
As we get deeper into the Holiday Season, as Christmas “sneaks up” on us and people freak out because they can’t find this gift or that, try to remember what is important… and it’s not a stupid video game, or gift certificate, or pair of Darn Tough Socks (although, always the perfect gift!). It’s the spirit we find in ourselves to carry on living in this world with the people who are here sharing it with us. It is the relationships with those people in our lives that we celebrate as we prop up trees and decorate them with artifacts from our past, pull out the flying Santa’s, set up various Nativities, and plug in lights to soften the darkness.
I haven’t hung up the smashed and weathered piece of mistle toe that I used to kiss Kateri beneath… and it may not ever hung up again. Things change. Significance and meanings attached to those things change… and we adapt. It’s not the mistle toe that’s important… it’s the memory of feeling Kateri’s lips, of holding her in my arms, of remembering how excited she would get during the holidays that is important to me… how she would treat people… love people… how she would put on Kenny Rodger’s and Dolly’s Christmas album at 7:00am or yell out, “Festive to the left!” as we drove through the hills of Vermont at night during the holidays. That is how I keep her with me.
It’s been a strange holiday season so far and there have been some ups and downs, but I think Kateri would be proud of my decorating, happy with our tree (with 2 angels and a star on top), and excited that there is snow on the ground. Although Kateri won’t be sitting next to me in her robe this Christmas morning as we open gifts of food storage containers, flannels, and Obama dolls… (actually, those are all old gifts… it’s a little more sparse under the tree this year without her), but she will be with me. If you think about other people, if you remember what is important in life, if you are true to yourself and your intentions are good… if you get excited when you see an over the top display of Christmas lights… she’ll be with you, too.
Be good and enjoy the season… whatever season it may be for you.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
- I’m glad Kateri kept buying Christmas decorations… it makes the house look festive!… but it doesn’t feel as “Christmassy”.
- First Christmas as a widower… strange, hard, emotional, reflective… but also heartwarming and comforting.
- Holidays are just other days inserted into this process that sometimes makes you think about shit in a different light.
- I have noticed that I fall asleep in “Kateri’s Chair” at every possible opportunity… and then fumble my way upstairs to bed between 2:00 and 4:00am. (It may also be that I’m getting older… and it’s closer to the T.V.)
- I decorated the tree and house in silence. I guess I just needed to think about stuff… Kateri would’ve been playing Christmas music… or the B-52’s… but mostly Christmas tunes.
- The last three weeks have been difficult for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we have to make decisions that push good things to the side so that we can confront the hard things that are slapping us in the face… it’s kinda fucked up.
- I haven’t gotten a Christmas Ornament or new Christmas Album yet this year… but soon!
- It took me four days to decorate my house… kinda… haven’t done any Christmas shopping… haven’t made any cookies… haven’t watched The Grinch or Elf or Christmas Vacation… haven’t written cards… haven’t done any caroling or holiday parties… and I’m good with all of that. I’m doing what I need to do.
- I wish Kateri was here for Christmas… I just wish she was here.