Friday, December 17, 2010

A Family Christmas

Christmas has become a really hard time for me. My mother was a substance abuser and this was always her holiday. My earliest Christmases I think were fun. Then I sensed the 'have fun or else!' undertone. Then it became 'you don't appreciate me enough'. One year when I was still fairly young (around 9 I think) she followed me around the house telling me that I was to blame for her addiction and if I didn't like her behavior then I should support her more and make her feel more lovable. (She would usually choose my grandmother for that little speech.) Then she would lavish us with expensive, unnecessary gifts and an extravagant meal that she had slaved over and told us that that proved that she loved us. There are so many things wrong with this pattern that it makes my head spin.

Then one year in my early twenties something changed. It was a Christmas miracle. My mother went into rehab. She wasn't happy about it. She blamed us for all of her problems. But she did it. She made it. Well, she shifted her addiction from more destructive substances to cigarettes. For a few years after that Christmas became unbearable. In her mind we had banished her to a hospital right before her favorite holiday so we could have fun without her. (We really saved her life.) 

A few more years passed and Christmas became fun again. Oh, it was still stressful. Some of my family could never manage to get close to my mother. I am happy to say that my mother and I worked through most of our problems. It was really hard. It took years. We both swallowed a lot of pride along the way. It was messy. But in the end we managed to salvage something. 

She died of a heart attack a few years ago. Near the end of her life she admitted to me that she wished she had done things differently. She knew that she had messed everything up and wondered when God would start healing her. I think that she had abused her body so long that God didn't have much to work with. You could tell that she couldn't even think properly. Imagine living in a diseased body like that. I miss her. I even miss some of the craziness. 

Now I have children of my own and I have to wonder what the hell was going through my mother's mind all that time. Weren't we, her children, worth a trip to the doctor? Didn't she think we would miss her? And her grandbabies? She will never meet my children. I can't go on. I'm crying as I write this.

I guess my point is that now my son is old enough to understand that Christmas is a special time of year. I cannot help but think of my own mother and how she loved Christmas. Because as wrong as she got things (and she got a lot wrong) she got some things right. I know that she would be scandalized by our small tree and few gifts. But just last night I was holding my baby girl in my arms and dancing around the room with my son while listening to Christmas music in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. I think THAT is what my mother wanted for us but she didn't know how to get there.

In the end I believe that my mother is in a place where she can finally love us the way she wanted. I believe that she is in a resurrected body that can take a deep breath and no longer craves a cigarette. I believe that she knows about her grandbabies and looks after us. I think that part of her purgatory is not being able to hold us in the flesh and her salvation is being able to love us anyway. I believe that this is possible because Jesus was born on Christmas Day.

I miss you mom. Your legacy is greater than your failures. I hope you are in a place where you can finally see that. I love you. Merry Christmas.

I'm sorry if I've been too personal here. I'll try to do better next time. If I don't get to this blog before Christmas then I wish you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

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