growing up, christmas was nothing short of magical.
first, weeks prior, my parents would buy a few cartons of egg nog, some cheap, but delicious, christmas cookies - you know, the ornament shaped ones with the sprinkles on them - and we would decorate the tree together as kenny rogers' christmas album played in the background on repeat. it was a castrucci favourite, after all.
weeks later at the crack of dawn, we'd find ourselves around the same tree, only this time, watching each other open presents. as cliché as this sounds, looking back, it wasn't about the gifts - it was about the joy found in giving. i can still see the light in my dad's eyes as we opened 'santa's gifts', and it wasn't until after he passed away that i realized the very cost of those gifts. my mom told me years later that my precious dad would pick up extra shifts at work just to make sure that we got all that we wanted, and we always did. but now, decades later, i would trade every single gift that ever sat under that tree for a chance to spend just one more christmas with him.
our last christmas was so special. we spent it at the nottawasaga in alliston, where three of us used to work. i never went to breakfast with he and my mom that morning before everyone arrived because i needed some peace before all the troops arrived. mental illness will do that to you. but regret does so much more.
regardless, we had a great day that day! we pushed my dad in an impromptu wheelchair race against my brother-in-law's mom [obviously my dad won], ate a yummy dinner, [i still remember how excited my dad was for the buffet that night], and topped it off with 'operation spoil our parents'. it was perfect.
the next day, i said goodbye to my dad for the last time, and somehow i knew it. i hugged him, he hugged me back, and said, "bye, hun. see you soon" as i walked out the door. three days later, he died in his sleep, and christmas hasn't been the same since.
last year, we brought christmas to my mom on the seventh floor of a hospital. we decorated her windowsill with a small christmas tree, brought her presents she would never be able to use [but brought them any way], wore silly hats, and took even sillier pics. it was rough in many ways, but beautiful in so many others. for me, christmas will always look like this. maybe it will look like this for you, too.
i'm trying really hard here.
trying to find balance between treasuring the memories i have with my parents and grieving the fact that i can't make more.
trying to find balance between feeling insurmountable loss and pain, and celebrating the magic that still remains. the birth of Christ. his presence. christmas lights. stockings. kenny rogers. egg nog. cheap christmas cookies covered in the most colourful sprinkles.
my family has chosen to go our separate ways this christmas. for them, it means christmas with their respected families. for me, it will look like serving hundreds of delicious meals with my regent park family like i do every other saturday, falling asleep in a hotel watching cheesy made for TV christmas movies, and thanking God that no matter what my circumstance may look like, the reason of the season remains the same.
"the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" [which means "God with us"]. amen.