Today has not been a good day. It has actually been quite rotten. Not ten minutes ago I found myself sweeping glass into the trash while reassuring my four year old that yes, Mommy still does, in fact, love her. About an hour before that I was sweeping more glass into the trash, while simultaneously feeding Cora and kissing the "owie" on Eliza's forehead that she received when Dana tipped over the chair she was (not supposed to be) standing on, landed on top of Eliza, and broke said two-year old's new Christmas ornament. About an hour before that I was upstairs in the attic, trying to regain my composure so that I could head down with an armful of Christmas decorations and not let on to my girls that this was going to be a very, very hard day for Mommy.
My nerves are shot, I am totally on edge, and I just completely lost it in front of my two oldest girls. It's been that kind of day.
It began this morning when I was looking at our Christmas tree, trying to figure out my plan of attack. Decorate now or later? Kids or no kids? Baby or no baby? Before lunch or after lunch? I figured I'd just dive in head first, let the girls help me in whatever way they wanted to, and see how things went. So I headed upstairs to collect some decorations, and upon reaching the corner where we "keep Christmas" was hit face first with memories of years gone by with my Dad.
Today would have been our day. Or, at least until about five years ago, today was always our day. From the time I was around twelve years old until I married Jason at the age of 27 it was my job and my job alone to deck my parent's halls for Christmas. I'm not sure how it happened, or where anyone else was, but it just became expected that on the day after Thanksgiving I would put up the stockings, trim the tree, and set out the annual decorations. It became tradition for me to hear my father ask when I woke up on Friday morning, "Do you think you'll have time to put up the tree today?", knowing that of course I would say yes. And he would proceed to bring the tree up from downstairs (we were never a "real tree" kind of household), string on the lights, help me bring up the rest of the boxes, and then retire to his favorite chair with his crossword puzzle in hand, newspaper next to him, ready and willing to help me out if I needed it. I would put on Amy Grant's Christmas CD, turn up the volume as high as I thought he could stand it, and start plugging away. He would look up every once in awhile to admire my progress, or tell me how nice it was looking, and then go back to his puzzle, or maybe nod off for a few minutes while I kept at it. And when I was finished I would announce my completion, and he would, without fail, get up from his chair, take a look around the tree, give me his famous grin and tell me how great it looked and thank me for doing all the work.
It was never any work at all for me. I loved this time. I loved the stillness of the house, as for some reason it always ended up being just my Dad and me at home during these few hours. I loved the peacefulness in which we kept each other company, speaking only when necessary, otherwise just enjoying the comfortable silence that can only be had in the presence of those who know you best, and love you most. For one afternoon, every year, I had the knowledge of exactly what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, and who was going to be there to help me make it happen.
I missed this time together with my Dad after Jason and I got married. Every year since then I would still reminisce about those afternoons we spent with each other. I would find myself putting up my tree, by myself since Jason was usually gone hunting, missing the quiet company of my father, not getting the satisfaction out of the Amy Grant Christmas CD that I had always felt in years prior, with the finishing of the final touches being pretty anticlimatic with no one around to share them with. I would find myself wondering if my Dad was remembering these days gone by, too, and would make a point to ask him the next time I saw him if he wanted any help with his own tree. But by this time my Mom and Dad had moved into a condo, and had taken to just keeping a fully decorated tree down in the basement to be brought up without any fuss or fanfare whenever the spirit moved one of them.
Well, today my Dad's spirit has been all around me. I feel him everywhere, and I miss him. Today I find myself having to periodically retreat to the kitchen, out of eyesight of my kids, while I weep for these todays gone by. Today I just want to see his warm smile again, hear his gentle voice, look into his kind eyes, and know I did something that made him happy.
Instead, today I have spent more time being a bad mother to my own kids as I try to reconcile the loss of my father. I have spent more time raising my voice, more time trying to distract them so I can be alone with these thoughts, more time wishing this day would end, more time wasted in reliving traditions past instead of building traditions for the future.
And so when Dana, in all of her four year old gracefulness, dropped the brand new glass snowglobe which my mother-in-law had given our family as a gift last Christmas and I saw glass shatter all around her, I lost it. My hands went over my mouth, my eyes welled up with tears, I sank to the ground, and started crying.
Now I sit here devastated that this is the memory Dana will most likely remember when she thinks back to the day she helped Mommy set up the Christmas tree. When she thinks back to this day, instead of recalling stories about all the different ornaments, or how she helped me set up the nativity scene, or how we read a story about the first Christmas, she will just go back to the picture of her mother, sitting on the floor, head in her hands, watching as her tears mingle with the spilled water on the floor.
Like I said, today has not been a good day.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day clinging to your promise of grace. I need it today, Lord. I have been reminded at every turn that I am fragile, I am human, I am weak, and I need Your help.
I need Your help as I strive to be good parent while I am mourning the death of my own. I need Your help in those moments, in those split seconds where I can choose to keep my cool, or to crumple. I need Your help to make good decisions, decisions which result in value, and strength, and progress in my life and in the life of my children.
I feel my Dad's spirit everywhere today, Lord, but I know if I let myself I will be able to feel Yours, too.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Calm me with Your presence. Remind me, again, that I need only rely on You being here and everything will be okay. Remind me that it's not a matter of counting to ten, it's just a matter of counting on You.
I ask for comfort in the middle of this sorrow, and a renewed confidence to face the future You have so carefully laid out for me.
Thank You for being a God I know I can ask these things of, and they will be given to me.
In Your Holy Spirit's Name I pray,