[Happy] Holidays

November 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

So Thanksgiving happened. I have distinct memories of holidays at my grandmother’s house that are full of light, warmth, food, and the chatter of happy people. When I walked in the door yesterday, I could tell things were different. The atmosphere was tense. Apparently my grandmother had been cooking herself to death (because no one else in that house would ever lift a finger to help her, though they’re more than happy to put a mile-high list of demands on her) and my grandfather had been throwing tantrums all morning. There was all this stress in getting everyone together to eat, because so-and-so was complaining that we were eating too late and they were hungry, but then someone else couldn’t be found, and someone else was still taking a nap, and someone else was out at the shed, etc. So much stress just to sit down and eat a meal which we could have eaten at 1:00 or 1:20 and it wouldn’t have made a difference, but those people stress out over weird things.

The silence at the dinner table was deafening for me. All I could think of was how much I missed alec, how much easier things were when he was there. Were the dinners always this uncomfortable and I just didn’t notice because alec was there? Or were things particularly bad yesterday?

Dad’s depression is still pretty bad, so he was quiet. Grandmother was really sad because this is our first Thanksgiving without Great Gran (who died in April, just after my birthday). Lisa breezed in just for an hour or so, and then left again to head back into town. Jessica and Blake rarely talk (or smile) anyway, and Kelley kept yelling at Blake the few times she opened her mouth (she hasn’t talked to me in years and I’m fine with that), so I can’t blame him for not wanting to talk. She didn’t even have the common courtesy to get out of her sweatpants for dinner, but I guess when it’s “your house” you can do whatever you please. Things have been really different since they moved in with my grandparents. I guess when you all live together you don’t have much to talk about at the table. Even my mom, the most cheerful person in the South, voiced frustration because she was the only one in a good mood. My brother lucked out, getting to stay up n0rth because Apple doesn’t let people off for the holidays. Dinner was so uncomfortable and unpleasant, I don’t want to go home for Christmas now. That’s something I never thought I would say, but there it is. I don’t want to go.

It’s been such a weird year for holidays, too. My birthday and Easter were pretty dampened because it’s hard to celebrate when your 93-year-old great-grandmother is hooked up to machines in a hospital that she will never leave. I was violently ill during the 4th of July, so our plans to go to Atlanta were cancelled. I had actually made plans for Halloween this year but they fell through and I had schoolwork, and museum work, and training all piled on so I didn’t do anything at all for Halloween, the weekend before or the day of (when I had class until 8pm after a 12 hour day). Maybe I’d put too much pressure on Thanksgiving to be this perfect day of happy family time. My family isn’t happy anymore.

I spent a lot of the day hanging out “down the hill” at the outhouse where the washer/dryer are doing all the laundry that I’d had piling up since the last time I was home in early October. A little dog, Gus, lives down the street but sometimes comes to hang out down by my parents’ and aunt and uncle’s houses. He’s pretty adorable, some kind of a jack russel mix with sweet brown eyes and cute ears that do this bounce thing when he runs across the field. Gus does this quiet little whine that Cleo does when he’s being petted and likes it, and he does it louder when he thinks you’re about to stop. Anyway, I sat outside with him as I waited for my laundry to finish a cycle. Mom came down and visited with me as well. I wish we could all be happier for her. I know it must be exhausting for her to be around all these depressed people. My family members can be pretty gross too, they all smoke cigarettes which is revolting, and we’re all pretty sure my uncle is an alcoholic, but no one says anything. There’s always a lot of drama too, so Mom and Grandmother both just try to keep their noses clean of it. That’s a tough thing to deal with at home though, when you should be able to kick back and relax instead of worry that you’re going to say the wrong thing and start a shitstorm. There are so many great reasons for why I no longer live up there with the family. I’m not built for that kind of environment. And I know it’s taking a toll on mom, and probably dad too. I can’t imagine it’s making things better for him. I actually do think it helps that he lives so close to his brother. They’re pretty friendly, not like me and my brother, and John seems to be in high spirits most of the time. He’s got a good sense of humor about life which I think helps dad. I don’t know.

I guess I’m doing that thing again where I want to peace out just because things are uncomfortable. It’s weak, I know. But what else can I do? Sit there and suffer through it and feel even more miserable rehashing why alec isn’t there to make things better? I sit there at the big table, listening to the silence and feeling like I have so little in common with anyone. My parents and my grandmother are nice to talk to, but sometimes I get really mad about how everyone else in the house treats them that we just end up arguing. Apparently my understanding of family isn’t the same as theirs. I would never run over my family members, and I certainly wouldn’t constantly run over my family members and then yell at them for being in the way of my car, figuratively speaking. That’s how I see the interactions on the mountain, but I’m also biased of course. Family dynamics are as delicate as they are complicated and I prefer to stay as far away from them as possible most days. I just wish our special days, these holidays, were the way I always remembered them. With everyone so unhappy, I’m really not looking forward to Christmas…


Edit: Thought I should mention that I did retake the GRE today for the fourth time. Still got the same score as the last time I took it, despite the revised version of the test. Thought the new test was still pretty hard. Either way, basically retook it for no good reason since my score didn’t improve. It’s a funny thing when you realize that even though it’s been years, you’re still the same person you were when you were 20. Hah hah, life. Hah hah. Let’s still keep hope alive that I might get into a PhD program, though. Get some kindling for that flickering flame. This time I have to get in.


§ One Response to [Happy] Holidays

  • It took me ’til I was 27 to discover this and climb out of the mold that had been made for me:

    “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
    ~ Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

    But it’s not the same for you – you’ve chosen your own course early and early run into all the obstacles that go hand-in-hand with high aspirations.

    I was fortunate not to have such difficult family relationships in those days. We all got along pretty well for the most part. The most trying issue at Thanksgiving was everyone having to compete with cousin Delores for food. She made cleaning up a lot easier, and you never had to look forward to leftovers. We always seemed to have happy holidays.

    After a quadruple bypass, poor Delores passed away from another heart attack and stroke a few years ago. I’m sure the remaining family back east still remembers her fondly as I do.

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