Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I Dread The Holidays

Connie Opening a Christmas Gift From Her Sister, Shirley

Once again the holidays are upon us and I've been hit with bad news. Before I tell you the bad news, I'd like to fill you in on some history. I had a turbulent childhood, so much so that I left home at the age of 17 riding in an eighteen wheeler bound for Boston to pick up a load of beer. I had five dollars, some record albums and a change of clothes with me. During the ensuing year I bounced around like a racquet ball going from Massachusetts to Connecticut to New Jersey until I finally enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps in June of 1966. I turned nineteen in Parris Island (my birthday had passed by three days before I realized it).

Throughout my service, I did not go home for the holidays, choosing instead to spend time with friends (especially one particular friend in Memphis) or to stay at the base. During the years I was married to my now deceased wife, Connie, I went along with the flow, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was her favorite time of year. All I can say about those years is that for the most part I was able to get through the season without ruining it for her and our daughter. Then came 2006.

On October 16, I lost my beloved Connie, which of itself was enough to dampen any semblance of holiday spirit I had. Then on December 20 my older brother, Norman, lost his battle with diabetes and kidney failure. I attended his funeral on Christmas Eve and returned to my home in New Hampshire, where I spent the holidays in seclusion. I have not put up a single holiday decoration since my last Christmas with Connie in 2005. My dislike of the holidays was, if anything, strengthened (while I think of her everyday, I find myself reminiscing of her and our holidays more and more during the season).

Now we jump forward to 2011. Last month I learned that an old childhood friend, Bob Cyr, was hospitalized with stage four intestinal cancer. I visited with him on Thanksgiving afternoon and again the following week. During the Thanksgiving visit he was lucid and we joked about some of the crazy things we did as kids, several of which I had forgotten. The second visit was not so nice. The cancer had spread and he was unable to carry on a conversation or maintain a consistent thought. About once every five minutes I had to tell him who I was. It was earth-shaking for me...a flashback to my wife's last days. I am still haunted by the last words she ever spoke: "Vaughn, help me." All I could say was, "Connie, I don't know what to do..." Looking at Bob and remembering Connie made me think about how helpless we truly are when our loved ones need us the most.

Bob passed away yesterday, December 14, 2011, at the age of 65.

It always hurts to lose a loved one, but to lose someone at this time of year seems to hit harder. For most of us (this writer excluded) the holidays are a time for family and for giving. To have to remove a loved one's presents from under a Christmas tree has to be devastating. It's bad enough to try and fill the void they left behind... I don't think I can handle too many more holidays.

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