When “the holidays” come

I had occasion the other day when someone said, “the holidays are usually the hardest,” to respond, “For most people, yes, but it doesn’t bother me.” I have reflected on my glibness and wondered if that’s why, ever since, he has placed himself so center, as if to say, “Really? You’re not troubled just a little?” Here we all are (most of us), preparing to gather with family and friends, to celebrate according to our traditions. It’s a time when we try to include everyone. Sometimes we run ourselves ragged, catching a few hours with this family member, fighting traffic and avoiding holiday accidents (drunk revelers), just so we can give a hug and laugh a little.

And that’s good. Laughter is. But then we notice a tinny quality in our own voice and that’s when the missing person’s absence pushes us against the wall, even years later. We’ve had no choice but to accommodate, but we’re not “over it” and the trite “closure” they keep talking about is more to satisfy a narrative than to describe reality. The wound doesn’t close, though we may go months with the seeping so subtle we don’t notice until all of the sudden the pool is full and flooding behind our eyes.

That is one way we fool ourselves, the glib wave of the hand–but it should be a warning, anytime our answer comes so fast and easy: get ready for big dose of humbling.

More reflective now, I am missing being able to see and touch two sons. In the next 10 days, I will love (and touch and laugh with) my oldest and our two granddaughters and my family. But I will honor the sadness that comes when we’re supposed to gather all the ones we love into our wide embrace and can’t. I will stop saying, it doesn’t bother me.

So this poem is for that. It’s a modified ghazal, “Ghazal by a Thread.” If you’re listening, given them a hug.

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