Christmas is a time for family celebrations until it becomes a weapon in a family battle.
It was Christmas Eve. She stayed in bed. She would not get up, no matter how hard he persuaded her. Her demons were with her, crowding her mind. They would not let her go; she would not let them go.
He wanted it to be like it was when he was a child. He wanted to touch in to the old family feeling, so he arranged to take her north to spend it with his old family.
She was not looking forward to the idea. She did not want to parade her issues in front of his family. She did not choose to share this with him. She knew he was so looking forward to the time away from home.
Time took over and would not let go. Demons and time, they do not wait or care. He left it as late as possible but he had to leave to pick up his cousin from the airport. This seemed a sensible idea when it first came up but he could not now remember how it had happened.
As they went back to the house he explained what was happening. This was new ground, the public acknowledgement of what was going on. He could not believe it himself, let alone explain it to someone else. He knew it had to come. He knew they had to know.
They got back to the house. She was still in bed. She was rolling around. She was not responding. He could not get through to her. Should he go and leave her or should he stay behind and try to make things better? What was the best thing to do?
He saw that she was not there, that she would not even know what was happening. It was obvious that she did not want to take part and he was not going to let her ruin his plans, spoil his Christmas.
So stay with the plans. Go north. Take refuge in a family Christmas, if that is what you could call it. Take refuge in something that was long gone but still kicking.
It was a difficult drive north towards the grimness. There were questions and explanations, with awkwardness and embarrassment.
It was clear now that things were bad. There was no way he could hide any of it or pretend any more. It was such a relief to let it all out at last. He even felt that he might have made sure that this happened so that, at last, he could bring it out into the open.
It was the concealment and the lying that most affected him. Her family knew, at least her brother did, but that was her problem. Now it was time for his family to learn all about it. Now he was exposed.
They arrived and sat in the kitchen—him, his aunt and his cousin, the three of them wondering what to do. This was not Christmas, no-one was happy. Why are we here, this awkward bunch? How can we celebrate?
He had to go through it all again with his aunt but this time it was more personal. She had known him since he was born and was fond of him. It horrified and upset her to learn about what had been going on and wanted to know where it had come from.
They made a decision; he made a decision. He would go south, go home—‘home’— no ‘the house’—and check she was still alive. He knew it would be no use, that it would not change anything, but he could not stay here with it on his mind.
His aunt and cousin realised that it would be a pretty miserable time with just the two of them. She phoned her daughter and told her that they had changed their plans. The two of them would go south to her Christmas.
Spread the news, open it up to the world. Now it was spreading out of control, the ripples had started. He knew that it was out of the bag and that the questions would continue on well into the New Year.
Back at the house she was still in bed, unconscious to what was happening, the demons were in charge. He was not even sure that she realised he had been away up north and back. He assumed she had kept up the alcohol intake because she was no better and no more conscious.
He went to bed—on his own. This was not for the first time and was starting to think that he might have to make it permanent. He now knew that, for him, this could not go on for much longer.
Christmas day did not dawn, it crawled its way into the light blaming everyone it could see.
THIS IS NOT CHRISTMAS!
The whole episode upset him. It made him angry and determined to celebrate Christmas somehow. He went to join his son, invade his Christmas. Let us pretend all is OK, have some turkey, be a family. After all Christmas is all about turkey and wine—is it not?
Back at the house that evening he decided that Christmas was over. Twelve nights was too long to wait.
She had done a great job, as always, decorating the house and putting up all the cards. She tried to make it a special occasion for him—well she had made a great job of it this year!
As soon as he got up on Boxing Day he checked that nothing had changed with her. He then took down all the decorations. He packed away all the cards. He cleared it all away to the attic.
Afterwards he went to bed. Alone. Again.
Boxing Day—Christmas had died.
She stayed in bed all day drowning in her demons. She had no idea what was going on—or perhaps she had—was that the point? She was not a stupid woman and he never felt that things just happened to her. He thought she was more calculating than others gave her credit for. He wondered if the few days had been deliberate, not to avoid going up north, but to punish him. Punish him for… who knows what… he was not even sure that she knew herself.
She could not fight his certainty and anger so she had to get him in other ways. She used ways that were not so subtle, ways that even he could not stop from happening.
Soon after Christmas had died he left home. He left to find the man inside, the man he had beaten down and suppressed all these years.
He found him, but he never forgot the day Christmas died.
Image Credit: Flickr/Lisa Roe (Creative Commons)