First came mémère's death when I was six years old. Christmas Eve was often spent with my aunt and later, due to distance, just immediate family but we still made the trip south on Christmas Day to grampy's house. When I was 21 my parents moved to the midwest but they would often fly back to New England for the holiday. When they did not I made the trek to my grampy's when I had a car, or spent the time with whomever I was dating when I didn't. Always there were early morning phone calls, talk of what one had for dinner and what gifts were exchanged. In my early thirties after my grampy died we began to bring my gran to our house to spend a few days and celebrate. My brother, who had moved to the west coast, had become a husband and father with a family of his own but still called in the afternoon and the phone was passed from person to person as were holiday well wishes.
A few years later my parents separated and then divorced. The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas became, well, awkward. What had once been the traditions of a single family were now split and I was left feeling unsure of where I should spend the holiday. My mother and I established a new tradition of getting together after New Year's Day to have a meal, exchange gifts and celebrate. My gran, who was my father's step mother, continued to come to Maine for the holiday spending the week with my father and his wife. I joined them for the traditional dinner and exchange of gifts. I celebrated the Winter Solstice with friends.
This past winter, after 90 years of life, my grandmother died. She was laid to rest in June and six months later, for the first time since I was a child, I have no plans for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I tell myself that life is like that, full of change and that I should (and will) adapt and adjust. I tell myself that my personal celebration is to acknowledge the turn of the year and nothing will change the importance of that. Yet, I can't stop myself from feeling like I have lost something greater.
Perhaps is only through loss that we realize the importance of certain things. My grandparents were the people in my life that accepted me come what may; a dependable rock of I love you. Later, after my grandfather's death and the scattering of the family that raised me, my grandmother became my touchstone of continuity from childhood to adulthood. As the holiday approaches, I feel as though without her I've lost a sense of having a home - of belonging somewhere.
I am sure that time will heal the sense of loss. That next year I will feel a little less adrift and perhaps I will have found some new tradition to establish but today I feel mostly sadness.