We're back from our trip to Grandma's memorial service. It was a beautiful service and I'm really glad I was able to be a part of it - and actually, my voice didn't waver too much at all. I think it's because despite the sadness in the room, it wasn't weighing us down like it does with a tragic or sudden death. It was a peaceful sadness, a letting-go sadness.
I find I am looking to my innocent daughter for guidance and inspiration these days. Of course we are devastated and scrambling to make sense of our lives since Chris's job loss, and naturally one of our big concerns is how to provide for Gwen. Since it's December, a big part of that concern is making sure Gwen has a great Christmas - we're living every stupid TV movie where A Big Crisis happens right before the holidays but somehow the Family Bands Together and learns a Valuable Lesson about the True Meaning of Christmas.
Her parents are a mess and life is in great upheaval, but Gwen knows nothing about it. Last weekend we travelled to the memorial and all she understood was that it was a great opportunity to visit with family and play with her cousins. She doesn’t know or understand all the difficulties we are facing right now, and that’s as it should be. She isn’t devastated that her dad is unemployed, nor does she expect hundreds of presents under the tree – she’d be happy with a handful. To be honest, we should all be more like Gwen!
For my part, and Chris's too, it's hard not to keep looking for catastrophes. We all "know" that these things come in threes, so we're eager to name something as the third bad thing and perhaps gain a bit of peace that there aren't any more shoes to drop - as if life worked that way! Fate or chance has been generous in this regard, and there are several possibilities for "third bad thing". For example, my sister's husband totalled his car, with his younger son inside it. (No one was hurt, thank God.) Chris's credit card number was somehow stolen and $600 worth of charges put on it. (The card has been cancelled and after a 6-8 week investigation, hopefully the charges will be reversed.) Chris and I both had to spend hundreds of dollars on car repairs for our respective vehicles last week, which we could probably not afford to do (and yet, not afford not to do).
Mostly, I'm just sort of stunned. I can't believe Christmas is next weekend. I've barely been keeping up with the Advent calendar, and I can't really get motivated to change that. I am not on top of things as much as I usually am, and even as I reflect on that I am so immensely grateful for the random situations that allow me to be on top of it as I actually am. For example, I got the bulk of my Christmas shopping done on my trip to Vegas in October - that would not normally be the case, and I'm so glad it's done already because I sure wouldn't feel good about going out and spending money now. I'm so glad that I am not hosting anything this year, and am not required to cook a giant meal or even bake a batch of cookies if I don't feel like it. I'm astounded that I haven't gotten Gwen in for Santa photos yet, or gotten the Christmas tree up. I can't believe that I haven't put on any Christmas music. But honestly, we lost a week. It feels like we were in a time warp - I think all we did for that week was whatever related to dealing with these two crises, interspersed with long bouts of staring at the wall wondering what the hell to do next. I'm pretty sure I spent a lot of time watching House, M.D. and eating ice cream, as those were the only activities that made me feel even halfway normal.
For all that, I am more excited about Christmas this year than I have been in recent memory. Maybe it's something to do with not taking things for granted, or being grateful for everything (and more to the point, everyone) you've got. Maybe it's because Christmas is usually such a huge glittering mass of positive emotion, and I desperately need it to balance out the stress and worry and what-now? that permeates every aspect of life right now. Maybe it's because Gwen is just completely at the right age: old enough to ask for specific presents, young enough that the list is short and completely reasonable. Either way, I'm completely convinced that next weekend (yes, it's that close!) is going to be a wonderful and memorable time. We sure as heck deserve it.