I bought a gym. I started a contract job as a part-time Strength & Conditioning Coach for a university here in Philadelphia. Shit, I actually showed up for Thanksgiving dinner and ate half a turkey by myself.
I even got a few essays published on topics unrelated to grief. One of these pieces had the word "Happy" in the title.
Ergo, I must be happy. I guess I'm doing fine now. I started acting a little normal, at least to the extent I haven't booked my third relocation ticket to Hawaii yet, so I can't really blame folks for treating me like I'm normal.
Except that I do. I mean really, what the actual fuck is wrong with you dumb shits??? You think because I finally grew some balls and quit that shitty desk job that somehow makes it all better???
Yeah sure, I teach people how to lift weights for a living, and that's certainly an improvement over whatever paper pushing charade I was faking my way through before, but my kid is still dead. And I still think about that not just every once in a while but basically between every goddamned set.
So pardon my dismay when all of a sudden I'm being invited to holiday gatherings and asked what I'm bringing to the present exchange. A bag of feces; that's what I'm bringing. I'll show up to your white elephant with a pile of my own shit and I'll hurl it around the room in protest of collective stupidity like a chimp throwing a tantrum.
Jesus H. Christ, did you forget I'm the guy who wrote a diatribe about ruining Christmas? What? You thought that wasn't real? You thought I was just hurt and didn't mean it and that it would all pass one day when the tears stopped flowing? Nope, I fucking meant it, and you can still shove that candy cane straight up your ass - crooked end first.
You know what goes on at many of those gatherings you're so eager to get me to attend? Your kids giggle, open presents, and run around showing off. My kid rots in the ground silently. See the difference?
So no, I'm not interested in coming to the holiday party, and I'm definitely not exchanging presents. You can buy presents for your own damned kids.
|Here I am at the only holiday gathering I'm likely to attend
this year - the annual candle lighting ceremony for dead babies.
I don't really see how that'd be much different from any other time. We're a nation of "treats" and "deserves," and from my point of view we treat ourselves liberally, not just on holidays but regular old days too, to all this stuff we supposedly deserve because we work so hard.
To each his own. I don't care what you think life owes you or what you buy. I used to think maybe life owed me a little more time with the daughter I loved, but it doesn't.
So do whatever the hell you want on Christmas, but just save me the trouble of handing me a gift card to some overpriced department store so I'm compelled to hand you one of exactly equal value to a different overpriced department store. And if, heaven forbid, my lame gift card doesn't quite measure up to yours, you get the added holiday joy of gossiping to anyone within earshot about what a cheapskate I am.
I'm not really a cheapskate, though. I'm just a bitter dick, and a sensible one at that. I'd rather give my money to a homeless guy on the street than to you. At least he needs help.
When did we start measuring our love by how much money we spend anyway? Money isn't where you find love. It's about that precious time I naively thought I was owed and would get.
I love cold weather and snow because if you're lucky you get stuck in the house once in a while with your family while a big storm rages. They have few choices other than to snuggle up under a blanket and watch a movie with you. Time sort of stops for a bit and you just enjoy being together.
I'd give anything for time to do something simple like that with Ruby. I'd scooch up as close to her as I could get and squeeze her tightly. That'd be worth more than any stupid present.
I did get my mom a card and a small gift. She raised me. She loves me. She puts up with me. She deserves to be remembered even if I don't feel like doing anything.
I got my girlfriend a small gift and made us a dinner reservation. She didn't cause any of this. She just has to endure it every year.
I wrote a card for my nephews. I told them I love them very much but that their parents can shop for them. I might have messed up there. They're little and they probably won't understand that I can't walk in the toy store.
Roo only said a few words. One of them was "toy." All children love toys.
Remember the island of misfit toys from the Christmas special? Roo had like six or seven talking Elmo dolls. Why so many? Because we're rich idiots? No. I wish.
She thought they could swim because of this one DVD where Elmo goes swimming, so she kept throwing them in the pool or in the bath tub. She was quick and we couldn't save them. So we just kept buying her new ones at sixty sickening bucks a pop every time she shorted one out.
All Roo's toys were misfit toys. I think that's why she loved me. I'm a misfit and she knew it.
And now I'm really a misfit. Before I was just kind of a weird guy who thought lifting heavy stuff was more fun than drinking, though drinking isn't too bad either. Now I'm the social pariah who hates Christmas.
Yeah, well, I only hate it because I'd have loved it so much with her. When I let myself, I picture what it might be like, but it just messes me up worse to linger there for too long.
It's better for me to just hate Christmas and get through it than to dwell too much on what might have been. It's probably that way for most parents who've lost a child.
So try to let us do that. If we decline the party invitation or pass on the present exchange, give us a fucking pass even if we're twenty years removed and you don't get it. You're not going to get it because you haven't lived it, but you can still have compassion. You can realize it's not always about you and your happiness. Sometimes it's about another's survival.
When you treat me like I'm fine and that your normal should be my normal, I don't know if that's what you naively believe or if you just can't deal with the ugliness of my pain. Either way, I feel even more alone.
The reality is that I'm not fine, even as I take steps to build a new life. Most days, I'm still just barely hanging on and stumbling through as best I can while missing my daughter and wondering if I'll ever see her again. I doubt anyone who has lost a child is ever really fine again.