Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Unexpected, Good and Bad

I've been doing something unusual, at least for me; pondering the recently past holiday season. Normally I like to move on quickly, with a sigh of relief that I can do so. Due to family complications, some past holiday seasons were strung out interminably, with gatherings from just after Thanksgiving to early February, which has made the past few relatively simple years that much more enjoyable. But this past season has hung on in the mind a bit.

It started off fairly straightforward. My family had been able to set up a gathering on December 26 at my brother's house, which wouldn't even require rearranging my work schedule. Even better, everyone would be there, so there wouldn't be that lingering get-someone-their-gifts-later hangover. My wife had set up two suppers for our kids and grandkids at our house; one on the 24th and one on the 25th, with only the former involving gift opening. I wasn't sure why we had a pair of suppers, but I had pretty much handed everything over to my wife (several times I looked at the stack of presents under our tree and realized I had no idea what they were or who was getting them) so I had no right to ask too many questions. I was just happy everything was under control.

Then on the evening of the 23rd My wife's Grandmother died. It wasn't out of the blue, since she was 95 and her health had recently been failing dramatically, but the speed of her downturn (until less than month before her death she had not only been living in her own apartment but taking care of her polio-crippled son) did catch people off-guard. As the obituary stated with the understatement common to such writings, this affected a lot of people in a lot of places. It also added another large amount of planning of a very different sort to the holiday mix. The end result: holiday gatherings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a funeral on Monday, and the need to take a day off on Tuesday to put life back together.

I must say that there were few problems; all the events went off with few hitches. But the overall atmosphere of the season took a decided turn. Not just the obvious damper a death puts on everything, but also a slight change in the other direction. The funeral was held at a Catholic church still decorated for Christmas which, along with the presence of a large number of small children who didn't really know the deceased and who still had Christmas on their minds, seemed to lighten the overall mood. The speed with which everything happened and the fact that the funeral was added into an already hectic time also prevented feelings from sinking too low for too long.

I sense that it led to a bit of a hangover, though (the fact that I'm typing this now is a good indicator). The putting in order of various death-related personal affairs was held up by the holidays, and there's a certain "what just happened?" feel. Just last night Grandbaby asked about going to see "Grandma Aggie and the birds", the latter being birds that the nursing home keeps and I suspect her main focus, but nevertheless a reminder of all that had gone on.

After finally being able to take the time to reflect, I have to say the season went just about completely unexpectedly. There were unexpected events, with effects that weren't exactly what would be expected from such events. About the only predictable outcome was my relief that it's over.

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