Christmas is a time of year that has many mixed emotions in a lot of families these days. Especially in my family. As Christmas has just passed us by I figured why not share a little nonfiction piece that I wrote a while back about Christmas for my family. It is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus Christ, and how we get so blinded by this world and material things. Death is something that can have a great effect on a holiday for a family who doesn't want to say goodbye. I hope you enjoy it!
The wind whipped and howled against the lake house I had known for so long and all too well. White powder fell from the sky onto the ground and the famous Cross Lake. The frozen ice was spreading into the hearts of those in that house. The fire crackled in the corner as flames sprung up and down dancing their dangerous dance. I watched and waited for them to climb out of their boundaries and light the room a flame bringing heat to all of us, maybe even a sense of hope. I was small just a little seven-year-old, I watched as the snow fell behind the Christmas tree through the great bay windows. It was a white Christmas one I hadn’t seen in awhile.
I grabbed two of my cousins to go outside and build a snowman. My grandma came out of the back bedroom; she told us to say goodbye to grandpa before we went out back. It was now something we had to do before we went anywhere. He was doing fine until that last week, and the doctor’s told us his time was now limited. I can remember grabbing my grandfather’s wrinkly cold hand and whispering to him what I always said, it was our special secret. He squeezed my hand with the little amount of life still left in him.
I stepped out into the frigid air and sunk into the depths of the snow. My cousins skeptical of how we were to accomplish such an outrageous task. They stood back and watched as I packed in the snow. Then a call came from the house telling us we had to come in. It was my father’s voice that I had heard so many times before, but his tone said something was wrong. He sat us all down and slowly told us what was going on, salty drops of water poured out of my bright blue eyes as they faded to gray.
I looked down at my hands knowing they would no longer be held by his and he wouldn’t squeeze my hand ever again. That was our thing, he squeezed my hand as he twirled me around the house. As a little tot, I stood on his feet as he stepped around so I could learn, as I grew older I started to do the steps on my own and copy him. He taught me how to dance making each movement fluid and perfect, we mostly swayed back in forth and sometimes he would twirl me in a circle. He also squeezed my hand as he stood next to me at my first soccer game when he taught me how to ride a bike, and when I was learning to swim. I was growing up quickly and those squeezes were there for me, they meant everything was going to be ok and I was going to make it. Now, every big moment in my life I wait for someone to grab my hand and squeeze it, but my hand remains open when everything else has been slammed shut.
Our family no longer sings when carols fill the air, even as twelve years have gone by silence falls over us. My grandma had always asked what I used to tell my grandfather, I hadn’t said it to anyone for twelve years and the words still burned in the back of my throat. The family was separated lost in a world without happiness and joy as the holidays rolled in like a winter storm. My cousins that I built snowmen with are just distant memories, my grandmother and I communicate when we can. No one ever shared memories of him and I think that was the most painful of all.
I took a step towards healing this past Christmas with sharing a simple secret that no one else knew hoping that it would release some of the pain. I started with my grandma, telling her that all I whispered in my grandfather’s right ear: “I will dance with you in heaven, maybe not soon but someday.” I smile knowing those were the very last words he heard from me and I wish I could have said more, but as a seven-year-old life means something a whole lot different than it does twelve years later.
My eyes still find a shade of gray once and while as I sit in his green leather chair in the basement of my mother’s house, but the brightness comes when I think about all the time we had together. Pancreatic Cancer took him too soon, but he always told me to never have any regrets because someday I will dance with him again. Every time I find myself spinning in circles or swaying back and forth to the beat of the music I think of my best friend and how much I miss him.
The white powder no longer falls from the sky on Christmas for my family. There is never a snowman in the yard at the end of December, but the joy is finding its way back. As I shared my little secret my family began to understand that the memories weren’t there to make us cry, but to celebrate what we had with him. Today my family has begun to dance like the flames once did in that old cabin on the lake. I just hope that they all remember what grandpa taught them to do.