My family has narrowed to two people: my son and myself. Three, if you add Flash the Wonder Pooch, and you almost have to, since he’s such a big part of my life.
My holidays are tranquil, but they’re also filled with meaning – and ghosts.
Case in point: my brother, Jerry. After Jerry left the Navy, he advanced far at NCR, then went on to form his own company. He remarried again and bought a huge house in Fair Oaks Ranch outside of San Antonio and another house in Maui. Because of the chances he took, and his entrepreneurial zeal, he was wildly successful. He started a second company, one centered around golf, a passion of his.
I wasn’t remotely in his ball park. As a widow with two boys to support, even paying the rent was a big, hairy deal. I lived paycheck to paycheck. I was intimately familiar with NSF/OD fees.
When it came time to exchange gifts on Christmas day, I dreaded it. Jerry was going to whip out something amazing, either a new technological gadget or something I couldn’t even think of affording, and present it to my mother and grandmother. They would ooh and aah and be wildly impressed.
My book of poetry or bubble bath just didn’t compare.
I was riddled with envy.
I wish I could say that I was a better person, that I didn’t have any flaws in my character, but I’d be lying if I told you that. I was jealous.
When you go into a situation knowing you’re going to be jealous, that doesn’t bode well. Every Christmas it was the same. What was Jerry going to produce? How was I going to get over it and not resent his grandiosity? I was almost always annoyed. I think I was as prickly as a porcupine. I tried to avoid every family gathering because of my envy.
The passage of years both adds and takes away. My brother’s charmed life disintegrated. He and his wife divorced. He died unexpectedly, and very young, a few years after my mother and grandmother died.
I went on to write books, putting on paper all those words I couldn’t say in person. My confusion and grief about Jerry probably shows up in my books from time to time. And every Christmas I think of him.
I wish he were here, annoying me with talk of the new Porsche he’d just ordered and correcting me as to how it was pronounced (poor-sha, not porsssh). I wish he were here, telling everyone how he and Susan were going to Maui for New Years. I wish he were here so I could tell him what a PITA he was being and how much I loved him.
But he isn’t here, except in spirit. So, when I feel him in my heart, I hope he forgives me each year for being such a pill, for being envious when I should have been glad for him. For being jealous when I should have joined in celebrating his generosity.
Isn’t that what the season is all about? To give without thought of return and to experience and share joy.
I wish I’d learned that lesson earlier.