My father died Christmas Eve night, almost 40 years ago. It doesn’t matter. It will never matter. It could be the same night he died for the grief I suffer nearly 40 years later. He wouldn’t never want this, his children stricken every Christmas, memories of that night. CODE RED, CODE RED. We got to the hospital just in time for him to die after my boyfriend and I drove home from Columbus to Cincinnati in my 1965 Volkswagen, with a completely inoperable heater. I will never forget that bitter Ohio winter night. The windchill was -50. Once we reached the hospital, I fell to the ground when I got out of the car, my feet so cold, I couldn’t stand up.
This year, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will die Christmas Eve night, but their families won’t be by their sides. This will haunt them, because the COVID virus doesn’t care, yet we do and deeply, desperately.
So Christmas’s are hard for me, hard for so many. Tonight, I sat by the fire, writing, remembering (it’s SO important). Crying for the world (can someone cry for the entire world?), thinking about my brother and his wife. Her father has COVID and it’s not looking good. I think about what they must be going through. My doorbell rings. My doorbell never rings. The last time was, maybe ten years ago? I have a Wizard of Oz door, you know the kind that has a little ‘sub-door’ built in? It’s very cute even if the door needs replacing. Like in the Wizard of Oz, I open it up and hopefully not as cranky, say hello to my neighbor who stands pensively holding a present with a bow on it. We are not sure what to do. Neither of us are wearing a mask. Since she just had a COVID scare in her family, a positive test, we both understand I cannot invite her in and I so want to. I so WANT TO! I want to invite her in for a glass of the latest terrific cheap wine from Grocery Outlet, an egg nog, a hot toddy. ANYTHING! I pine for company, a reprieve from my reverie and sadness. Damn it! “I think we’re apart okay, right?” I ask. “Yeah,” she answers as she gently places the present on my top step. We visit through my Wizard of Oz door, kind of yelling at one another. It’s going pretty fast: how is your family? How are you? “Thank you so much! Be well! Stay Well!” I yell after her as she descends the stairs from my house. I look through my Wizard of Oz door at the the pretty little gift she has left for me. I have to wait, you see, to get it. As I wait, my dogs cry and whine. They love her. As I wait by the door, one of my dad’s favorite songs plays on my little boom box, Silent Night by the Henry Mancini orchestra. When the coast is clear (the coast is clear, from warmth and compassion, oh my God), I go outside and stand in the cold air. I look up at the moon. Oh Holy, Lonely, Night. Merry Christmas.