When I say stop celebrating Christmas, I don’t mean I’m going to neglect the important things; the supporting charities and spending time with the people I care about. The days leading up to Christmas are a splendid time of year for the most part. The lights and general cheery demeanour of others.
But, I’m at the age where I think about the mortality of people of a lot. Not in my normal semi-suicidal sense, but the basic fact that every one is going to die eventually. It’s not that I never experienced death when I was growing up, I just didn’t really get to see the after effects of death. It was a simple, they are not apart of this living world that I can see anymore.
My freshman year of college I lost my grandfather. We weren’t the type that talked every day, or often at all in fact, but he was someone that I felt I shared a mutual understanding with. A family member that didn’t need constant reassurance that we were family. Though he wasn’t the best husband or father in his day, I had much love and admiration for him. Despite his mistakes, he always tried to communicate with his children and even support me when we were able to meet. He never once made me feel silly.
After I graduated high school is when I started to think of my grandparents more as people. When I found out my grandpa had cancer, I found myself wanting to know more and more about his life. What I didn’t take into account yet however, was time. It waits for no one. I had four days left until I would move back to my father’s for the summer when my grandpa passed away suddenly. I had thought that we had all the time in the world to talk once I was back.
I was devastated. And sometimes I still am… that I never got the time I had wanted with him. I was never able to find out what life had been to him. I was never able to personally ask him if I could buy or keep his unused car. I couldn’t ask about the war photos I found while cleaning out his home. Or the birthday cards. Who his first love was. If he ever got over her. If he could change things would he. What his passions were.
Every day I spent cleaning his house reminded me of these things I wish I knew.
My grandfather always sorted through coins looking for the old ones that would be worth more money. In his older age he used a handheld microscope to check the dates, so when no one was looking I slipped this item into my pocket along as a keepsake. A thing he used probably every day.
What I was surrounded with sickened me. My family searched the house high and low… in the fire place, behind pictures; just looking for hidden cash. I had the best laugh when they managed to break into a safe only to find an ancient Playboy magazine. Bush and all. Who would have guessed while I was looking through magazines and books he kept on his desk I was the one who found 300 dollars in cash. How excited they all were to pocket it… I wish I wouldn’t have said anything at all. Because I wouldn’t have felt right keeping that money. I wish I could have donated it some way.
Watching all of my grandfather’s belongings and life collections being sized up on their value really changed something in me. Did anyone even keep any of the photos and cards I had found? I’ve never asked. But my guess is that they were thrown into a giant dumpster with everything else that was deemed “invaluable”.
I remember as my father mourned his own, the agitation in a person’s voice at him “taking too long” at the visitation. I couldn’t believe that people thought this way.
Recently I’ve been watching death unfold from a distance. I always thought that when someone passed away, if there was something that a family member was extremely passionate about keeping in the deceased’s memory, that item would be granted to them. But I’ve watched from a distance with lips sealed shut as things have been denied to those people because said item may have value.
I often feel bad that I avoid family during times of death, but we simply do not see things in the same way.
I’ve grown to detest the act of giving material things without meaning. So this past Christmas as I was in Mexico trying desperately to think of things that would make family members glad to receive, I got pissed and thought, “what’s the point?!” What’s the point in bringing them a magnet? I don’t give a damn about magnets. Why should I give them a sculpture that has a million copies that’s going to sit and gather dust and be thrown out anyway?
I’ve thought of any gift I’ve ever given that didn’t have much meaning. And I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want the things that I give to be given out of appreciation and not coercion. Not just on a day people thing means giving gifts, but any day that I feel like giving a gift.
I read an article this year on how Christmas used to be a day folks just got drunk and had a merry time with loved ones. I thought about the awkward feeling I get when people ask me what I want for Christmas or for my birthday and how much I’ve grown to hate getting things from other people just for the sake of getting. I’d rather receive nothing and just spend time talking.
When I look around on the holidays and everyone is plastered to their phones. People come up with excuses to leave quickly after eating. Etc. It’s become a sad thing since the days of playing outside or colouring with cousins.
So from now on, I want to express myself in my own way. Be it in death or during the holidays. I am different than them, and I want to take more pride in myself as individual.