We never had a Christmas Eve,
pressed together on a couch in the almost dark,
with only the flashing lights from the tree
to help us find our way

We did not have a quiet Christmas morning
buried under blankets and comforters,
negotating who would go make coffee and
who would bring the gifts to the bed

We only had a single day after Christmas lunch
in a fast food booth
her present (a CD), my present (a scarf)
her salad (that she didn't eat)- my burger and fries (which she did)

Pre facebook
Pre instagram
Pre selfie
so, no memory of the moment exists

except with me

The day after Christmas it rained in New Jersey. Sleet and rain pattered the roof and one sky light on and off during Christmas Eve. This is what people talk about when other things are more or less significant or emotional. The unpredictable weather, which somehow connects to important events in our lives, our loves, our deaths, our lost dreams, our fears, our fortune, our worries, our memories.

For instance, I could describe the exact weather conditions on the days I bore each of my children, as well as unusual natural events associated with each one; my daughter's father getting stung by a yellow jacket in early August during the second day of labor, a broken hospital window letting snow swirl inside during frigid late February twenty seven years ago; two years later, a blizzard in mid-December that almost shut down the power and a temporary nurse named Betty, who stroked my white hand with her black one, calming me, "her brave honey child," while my husband and the obstetrician dozed, with annoying reruns of Baywatch on TV.

This year, the day after Christmas the sun was too bright, too early or so I thought after a series of odd events, phone calls, and a scattering of Christmas cards. Even my husband, in a new phase of Alzheimer's, agreed that a copy of his father's obituary from the San Luis Obispo sister, replete with religious handwritten notes regarding baptism and everyone meeting in Heaven one day... was way beyond weird.

The day after Christmas, he was ready to go back to the routine "of work", waking at 2am, 5am, 8am. It was one of the few times I lost my patience with him, sleep deprivation not one of my strong suits. He was off for five hours of catered food, entertainment, acapella music and therapy dogs. I worked out for almost two hours at the YMCA, in a silent funk, until one of the personal trainers asked my advice about online dating, which I have zero personal experience in doing. I just listened.

After the details of her upcoming first meeting and seeing the guy's profile, I encouraged her to give it a try. What do I know, except bad experiences other family members have shared? I upped all of my weights and reps, just because I need the distraction, or maybe I'm anticipating the need to be stronger.

Me, in my son's Rememeber...Only You Can Prevent Wildfires! t-shirt with Smokey the Bear's face on it. I don't put much effort into my workout attire, yet EVERYONE comments on it. Today, the day after Christmas, the soon-to-be-Executive Director meanders in and asks where I got my shirt. I tell him one of my sons outgrew it and with slim details, he tells me how he worked for a Boy Scout Camp and is going to Cape Cod for the next week. He lives in a town nearby where my younger son has been teaching. He and his family want to move closer to the YMCA.

I wasn't awake enough to make some suggestions regarding improvements to the Y. However, the connection was made and after my mother's health settles down or she dies, perhaps I'll become more involved. Meanwhile, fending off the on-and-off visiting relatives, most well-meaning, but impending death does not become them, and when all leave after the holidays, I will once again become the one who is here.

The day of Christmas, I made brunch which sat cold as my guys awoke or arrived. Avocado omlette with Vidalia onions and some fancy cheese, Cotswold. Bagels. Apples and oranges. Coffee, tea, eggnog. Christmas candy. The first year I remember not going to my parents' house nor attending some church service. Four days after Christmas, I still feel an emptiness, or at best a sense of foreboding, that has nothing to do with winter weather.

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