Skipping Christmas, Not

I have to be honest, with the disaster that occurred in the United States on November 8, I have been rather down and have not had any holiday spirit. But our plans for our “no senior is alone on Thanksgiving” Feastival for November 24 were already in full swing, so we continued with it. I enjoyed the warmth and love from my friends and family, but missed having my spouse with me. He sat alone in a neighbor’s house because he just could not muster the energy to deal with the noise and confusion.

Immediately after Thanksgiving, my spouse usually begins to decorate the house and we decide when we will put up the Christmas tree and decorate it. But as my spouse and I were snuggling this past Sunday morning before rising to start the day, we talked about Christmas and what we were going to do. We decided…

… that we wanted to skip it this year. I have no Christmas spirit. My spouse is ill and has no energy.

In the past, we went all-out decorating our home for Christmas because we would have my mother-in-law join us at our home for the holidays. Often, my twin brother and his wife would surprise us with a visit. But this year, the mother-in-law is too feeble to endure the long ride from Pittsburgh to our house and back. Spouse and I decided that we would spend Christmas with her instead. (Oh great joy! Not.)

My twin brother is not interested in long-distance travel this year. He is still recovering from the shock of his last voluntary assignment in a grief- and war-torn part of the world. He narrowly avoided being blown up, and witnessed dear friends of his get killed in a bombing. He wants to remain at home with his wife in Rome, Italy, and take the train to visit his in-laws in Venice over Christmas. While I will miss him, I completely understand that.

Considering, then, that we will not be hosting or entertaining guests, and that “spouse rules” apply — no guests; no entertaining; no parties — there really was no need to decorate our house for Christmas for only the two of us, especially since we both do not have the will or desire to do so. Therefore we decided to skip it this year.

Further, Spouse and I are not giving each other gifts this year. Spouse never will tell me what he wants, and it is always a struggle to guess. Plus, neither of us want or need any more “stuff.” Instead, we are giving our “house fund” a bump and will do something nice for the house next year. (Can you spell “new furnace?” Oh joy!)

However, some traditions continue and will not be skipped.

My friends from junior high and high school with whom I have been croaking Christmas carols for 44 years now will continue the tradition this coming Saturday. I look forward to seeing my friends. I sense that for the most part, I will be “going through the motions,” but if they ask, I am ready once again to sing Tu scendi dalle stelle, an Italian hymn of deep tradition with my family.

Also, Spouse reminded me of my tradition each year of baking loaves of panetonne (Italian holiday fruit bread), wrapping them in colorful plastic wrap and tying each loaf with a ribbon and bow, and bringing one to each of the neighbors in the neighborhood where we live. I developed the neighborhood and feel a strong commitment to the small and very diverse little community that I helped to build. “Bread at Christmas” has been my tradition for ages, and I will not give that up even though I am feeling so dispirited.

The “not” of “Skipping Christmas” has been and will continue to be instituted by my family, who insist on having me visit them, playing with “the greats,” and devoting lots of love and attention when they know deep down how I am feeling. My brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews are busy in their own respective lives, but they know that their brother & uncle needs some “diversion attention,” and they find many ways to provide it. I am so very blessed to have the loving and caring family that I do.

And finally, my senior pals (LOLITS) who I look after in my community are also finding special ways to show that they care. Last week while in the grocery store, they broke out into Christmas carols and brought joy to patrons of the store. The singing continued in my truck as I was taking them back to their respective homes. I can’t help but smile and feel happy when I know that my senior pals are joyful in heart and in mind.

I really do believe… yes, I believe and have faith… in the spirit of humanity, decency, and love that shines at this time of year and I strive hard to continue that devotion throughout the year. This year, however, it is just darn hard. But with the caring love of my family and friends, I will remember what Clarence wrote to George (from my very favorite holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life), “no man is a failure who has friends.”

Yes, I believe.

Life is short: let traditions guide and bring holiday spirit.