A Christmas Lesson: Love the One (s) You’re With

I have finally seen the light
I have finally realized
I need to love…”
-Muse, “Madness”


DSC01627I love holiday traditions.

One of my all-time favorites was my mom, sisters, and my annual Christmas Eve together: Church with my mom’s family, a pot of Grandma’s famous chicken and dumpling soup at her house with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and home for Christmas movies, the four of us digging into the dozens of holiday cookies we’d baked.

When my younger sister got engaged on Christmas Eve a few years ago, things changed a bit. She started wanting to spend time with her fiancé and his family. Pretty soon, my youngest sister wanted to join in with her boyfriend’s family’s celebration that night as well, leaving just me and my mom to celebrate. Then, in 2011, my mom told me that the following year, she wanted to attend her boyfriend’s family gathering. Could we all just meet up early Christmas morning? We’d still have all day to spend together.

It seemed a fair enough request.

My dad had been offering for my sisters and me to come with him to his in-laws ever since we’d started talking again three years earlier; they had a great Christmas Eve celebration and wanted us to join. So, last year, I figured, why not? Ideally, I’d have my own significant other to spend time with, but instead, I was, 28, still single, and of course, not wanting to spend the holiday alone. So I told my dad I’d go with him; all the while feeling nostalgic for what I’d had, and lonely for what I didn’t have yet.

It was a night filled with smiles and laughter. I remember my dad’s arm being around me much of the evening.

It was a night filled with conversation; my dad took me around to just about everyone there, proudly introducing me and going on and on about my life and accomplishments.

It was a night he seemed so happy, as if he’d reached the pinnacle of his recovery — having one of his daughters with him on a significant holiday.

It was a night filled with love; in fact ,when we said good-bye, the words “I love you” came out for the first time in as long as I could remember. I have follow-up text messages with the same sentiment.

It was the first Christmas Eve in almost 20 years that I spent with my father.

And just 30 days later, we found out it had been his last one.

2012_12_24_9999_10

The 2012 holiday season brought me down a little bit. I felt lonely,  even moreso when yet another cousin of mine announced his engagement — was I the only one left who hadn’t found someone? Yet now, for the rest of my life, when I look back at being single at 28, I will think “Thank God.” And I will remember that no matter where I am in my life and more importantly, who I am with, I need to appreciate that moment.

My dad’s sister in-law approached me at his funeral in January. She brought up Christmas Eve right away and said that at one point during the night, my dad had looked over at her, looked at me, and mouthed to her “thank you.”

My sentiments exactly.

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