But I digress, today I didn’t want to talk about consumerism, because that is really the drug of the day. Talking about consumerism at Christmas time is like talking about dieting – what’s the point?
I wanted to talk a bit about family. I was lucky enough to have both of my parents with me this year - my father, severely mentally handicapped and my mother severely physically handicapped. For a couple of days prior to getting together I was flooded with memories of my Dad being silly. In his healthy years, he had quite the silly demeanour. At the best of times he was grumpy and impatient with us, but the silliness would surface from time to time and I apparently have an endless data bank of these silly moments stored in my memory. I am grateful.
For years I have been haunted by the images of his mental illness. I remember one particular memory when I had rescued my parents from Florida. They had a house and had spent their winters there for years. My Dad had a major mental break and it was all my Mom could do to control him. I dropped everything, flew to Florida, liquidated their belongings and house and drove them back to Canada and its affordable medical system. With my Dad in the back seat, horrified that the police or ‘someone’ would catch us and put us in jail, my mom and I were secretly crushing up sedatives, giving it to him in anything he’d take just to have some control over him for the 2,000 km trip, his horrified face in the rear view mirror the entire way. I thought perhaps I’d never see my Dad sane again and for years I couldn’t conjure up any positive memories.
So this boxing day I will revel in my box of memories of my parents in better days. I’ll remember the many Christmases my folks put on for us, the times when the family was one cohesive unit, not fragmented by the pressures of mental illness and declining health. I’ll remember the many walks in the woods with my Dad, identifying bird calls and breathing in the fresh winter air. And I will remember the silliness, it gives me comfort, it reminds me that my father’s life has not always been so tormented and that indeed he got to live the life of his dreams – even if it seems like such a long time ago.
I’m wishing you the happiness and insight of the season, the recognition of all that is good in your life and acceptance of the challenges as they’re presented. May you have your own box of memories you can default to when the world seems all together too crazy to bear.
My Mom & Dad - Summer 2010