Wednesday, December 27, 2006

That Wasn't So Bad

Christmas went much better than I expected. Even though I have endeavored to change things in my life, the old anxieties creep in.

When it comes to the holidays I have learned a few things. The people I love know I love them. I do not have to see them on actual Christmas day, buy them gifts they do not want with money I do not have, ply them with calories and food they do not need, or send them a generic card I have only had the time to sign without even dashing off a personalized sentence or two. And, vice versa. This takes the vast majority of the stress of EVERY holiday down to a very manageable level. I also use some very good advice a friend of mine gave me shortly after my parents died and things became insane with my siblings. "If it doesn’t matter, let them have it." This works very well for me both literally and philosophically.

It is important to me that I give some of my parents’ things to each of my sisters, and each of my nieces and nephews. My parents specifically stipulated in their will that they wanted to leave everything to my younger sister and me. They also stipulated that with the exception of the house, there is a separate section in wills for real property and the laws governing it are different than all other assets, that the disposition of everything is at my discretion. My Mom and Dad were adamant about their decision, but in my heart of hearts I do not believe they intended for me not to share. I think they meant for me and/or my younger sister to get the house and/or the proceeds from the house. Anyway, it does not really matter what they wanted me to do with their stuff, they gave it to me, and I can do whatever I want with it. I cannot keep everything. There are many things I had to discard for various reasons. I am planning a huge tag sale in the spring, and I am trying to share amongst my family those things that have meaning to us all. Things that carry good and comforting memories. Things that have meaning to those to whom I am giving them.

This is kind of tough since my sisters seemingly cannot even discuss this. I have to guess. It is all too difficult. And we are not getting along, so every conversation is like pulling teeth. My younger sister wants to keep everything, not because she wants or needs it, but because she cannot bear the idea of something being throw away. Then there is my oldestsister who wants everything because she feels she is entitled. No matter what my parents said, she just wants everything all the time. Her sense of entitlement on every level fascinates me. Her children because of the hardships of their childhood are heartbreakingly unsentimental, but are beginning to trust that they can have "things" and do need possessions that remind them of Gramma and Poppy. I do not know my next to oldest sister’s children well, and have no idea what might have meaning to them. They did not really know our Mom and Dad. Then there is my brother’s daughter. She is a really neat young woman and it's easy to think of things she would like. She is so gracious, and so eager to be sure everyone has something they will like. I give her all the things I find about her Dad, my brother, so she can learn whatever ever she needs to about him. Her Mom was great about her Dad. When she was a child, we all carefully and kindly discussed my brother, but now that she is grown up, we tell her what we know when she asks. I feel sorry for my brother that he missed out on the amazing person who is his daughter.

A few years before my Mom and Dad died, I went on strike. I am pretty sure I wrote about that somewhere in this blog. Basically I got sick of hosting all the holidays without any help, and much hindrance. Once everyone realized I was serious we explored alternative ways to celebrate. I laughed to myself just this Christmas day when it occurred to me what a dork I am. I felt bad about no longer trying to be the Hostess With the Mostess. This Christmas it occurred to me, nobody else got their ass in gear to do anything, and what kind of a dipshit am I to think it was my responsibility? I cannot express what a freeing and satisfying thing it is to stop feeling so freaking responsible. What we began to do was to scale back for things like birthdays. We stopped having all out shindigs. For Thanksgiving we went to a really nice restaurant, or happily accepted invitations of family friends. For Christmas we went to the movies and to get Chinese food. Once we got over the whole what we were supposed to be doing, the whole Norman Rockwell bullshit, we had a freaking good time. While a lot of people were seethingly enduring the company of loved, yet grating, relatives we were in a movie theater, literally laughing so hard we were sore, and afterwards eating delicious, hot cheap food, with tablecloths and real silverware, and no clean up.

This year most of my family lives over a thousand miles away. I saw most of my friends the week preceding Christmas. I spent Christmas day with my youngest sister. I like to go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. For some reason my church no longer has midnight mass. They have 10 PM mass. My sister did not want to go to that mass, since she felt it would not be Christmasy enough. On the "if it doesn’t matter, let them have it principle," I agreed to go to 8:30 AM mass Christmas day. Then we went to the movies. We saw Night at the Museum, which was cute. Then we went to the nice Chinese restaurant. I really like this one because the food is good, the place is clean, they have real tablecloths, and most importantly, the people who work there are absolutely lovely. After that we went to my house to exchange presents. I always have a tough time thinking up what to get for my sister. We are very different people, and often what I’d most like to give her is a swift kick in the ass. I picked out some things I thought she would like to help her with her grief. She is very bummed out at holidays, our parents’ birthdays etcetera. It was kind of a "death isn’t sucky" gift bonanza. She has always done pretty well getting me stuff I like. Very seldom does she ever get me anything that makes me think; "what was she thinking?" This year she totally hit the mark. She bought me something I did not even knew existed, that I would not have bought myself if I did, and that I really like. It is all the episodes of one of my favorite shows on DVD. Holy crap! I was so excited like a total loser. And I said "oh man this is way cooler than what I got you, I wish I could think of better stuff for you." She said "nope, I like this stuff you got for me, it is good stuff for me, I need this stuff." See, in real life she is actually pretty cool, she just plays my annoying pain in the ass little sister on TV.

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