I’m eeking out time to write to you again. I’m glad I’m doing it. I’m glad that I feel this writing is going to be positive and that I have so much I want to say.
Christmas wasn’t awful.
Christmas was actually really good, and even as I type that I’m fighting back tears, but they’re good tears because I know it would make you happy to hear me say that if you were here. I’m relieved and grateful that I’m able to tell you that I enjoyed yesterday.
We exchanged gifts, and that was hard. Lio made a beautiful frame for the picture of you and me that I use all the time. She wrote a touching, heartfelt message on the back of it. It was one of the most beautiful, loving gifts I’ve received since you died. It’s like the handkerchief Mama Spike gave me. It’s something I’m always going to cherish and remember.
Jon got me a book for advanced maille weaves. It’s called scale maille were basically you incorporate small metal scales into different designs. He got me a pack of purple scales to go with it and said the stipulation was I had to make him a bracelet.
I messaged tons of people in my life wishing them a Merry Christmas. Lio put the turkey in the oven. I figured that would be most of the day. That everything, for the most part, was over and the rest of the day would be surviving.
Lio and I spent some time outside talking where I got to thank her personally, privately, for her gift. We talked about you. She told me that every time she looks in the rearview mirror she thinks of you because when you taught her to drive you told her that if you can see the wheels of the car behind you then they’re back far enough for you to switch lanes.
It’s those types of stories that I love hearing from other people. How you helped them. How you touched them. How they remember you in the simplest most mundane things that most people wouldn’t think about, but it’s special to them because you were, are, special.
When Lio went back inside I stayed out, sitting in the chair. I whispered a Merry Christmas to you with tears and said that I love you. I missed you. I was sad. And I sighed deeply, resigning myself to the thought that the rest of the day would be survival mode.
Instead, it ended up being an amazingly fun day full of nerf gun wars in the kitchen and games of Taboo and Scattagories and Buzz Word.
I laughed so much yesterday, mom. I smiled and I took pictures and we made new traditions while keeping some of the old ones. Jason still got Clemson swag. We won’t let that die just because you’re not here to give him those gifts. We’ll do it for you, mom. We’ll take care of each other like that because that’s what you would want us to do.
We had turkey with green bean casserole which was fantastic. We picked on Jon during the games. We made sarcastic comments to each other and had silly team names like “Team Win”.
We joked about how Buzz Word was always your favorite game and how no matter what, whoever had you on their team would win. Always. We joked about how we used to say it was because you were
old wise and knew everything because you had been around for a while. And right now even though it was a joke and I laughed at the time it still hurts because 60 wasn’t, isn’t, old. You weren’t old, mom, and I wish you were still here.
But you aren’t, not physically, and we did the best we could yesterday and it actually turned out so much better than I could have ever thought it would. I never in any of my imagines thought that I would have enjoyed yesterday, but I did. I survived. I even lived and made fantastic memories. Memories that I’ll always remember and cherish and look back on and smile.
My first Christmas without you was different, mom. It had hard moments, but it had really, really good moments too, and I think that would make you happy.
The nerf war was such a hit that today we went out to Walmart and bought more weapons and ammunition so we could have round two. It’s a new tradition for us. Nerf Wars. And it has been so insanely fun.
I love you, mom. I miss you. And I wanted you to know that we’re doing ok. We’re doing really ok. Thank you for raising me to get through this. Thank you for being amazing and for still being here and helping me, guiding me. Thank you for making us a family and for making sure that we would stick together. I don’t know what I would have done if I had stayed in Orlando alone instead of being here with everyone.
I know that being here is the main reason I am doing as well as I am.
I’ve rested a lot while I’ve been here. I’ve thought through a lot of things that have been weighing on me. I survived what I thought would be the hardest days since your death. There’s a solidity that comes from surviving these days that I’ve feared for so long. A strength. A confidence. Another layer in the foundation that I’m building for myself.
Hard days can still be really good days. We can miss you and still smile and laugh. We can remember good times while still making new memories.
I watched the video Jason posted. I got to see you up and walking. I hadn’t realized how my image of you had changed to the you in the hospital bed. Tired. Sick. The you with tubes everywhere and the hospital gown. The thin you that had lost so much weight. That had become “you” in my head. But that wasn’t, isn’t, who you are.
I got to see the you who took me to marching band practice. The you who proofread every essay I ever wrote. The you who would call me after a week because a week was “eternity” for us to go without talking to each other.
In my head, I got to see the real you. It was good to see you smiling. Laughing. Hugging everyone. It was good to remember there was a time before the hospital.
Thank you for that time. Thank you for the 27 years of your life that you invested in me. That you supported me. That you loved me unconditionally even though you often times said you understood why some animals eat their young.
Thank you for everything, mom. Thank you for being there yesterday and for looking out for all of us and for raising us to stick together. We are, and we’re doing ok because of it. You raised us to be ok, and we are. We’re getting there and yesterday is proof of that.
Our first Christmas without you wasn’t a disaster. It wasn’t the horrible black crushing wave of depression I feared and had anxiety over. It was a really good day, mom. And I wanted you to know that.
I love you.