I wish I could say I had a lovely Christmas day, but I’d be lying. All out of the blue I had a total meltdown and spent an hour sobbing in my car parked in a forest. Today it all seems petty and ridiculous but at the time I just couldn’t help it, so please don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t have done – none of us know how we’d react living someone else’s life.
For 20 years our Christmas morning was dictated by my step-nan, who lived in Sheltered housing. My Dad always left us to go round to his Mum’s to open her presents and take her meal, leaving Mum and I on our own waiting….and waiting….and waiting for him to get home so we could open our presents and eat our meal (we couldn’t go with him as my step-nan couldn’t stand the sight of me because I wasn’t her “proper grand-child”). It was Christmas, however, and on that day more than any other one has to show love and tolerance – after all, my Nan was on her own (although why we always had to do the Christmas thing irked me, when she also had a daughter and 5 grown-up “proper” grand-children who could occasionally have shouldered the burden and given us a year off).
Three years ago, aged 99, my Nan entered Residential Care and I thought things would change. I was wrong. And this year, for some reason I can’t work out, it just pissed me off. A lot of effort had gone into the presents for my Dad this year which involved me crawling around in the loft, I’d only had 3 hours sleep on Christmas Eve due to being awake half the night with awful stomach pain, yet I still got up early to walk Bertie and get to my parents’ for 10am where I was expecting a cuppa and a mince pie before we started opening our gifts. Only when I got there my Dad was AWOL. He’d gone to see his Mum, who has dementia and doesn’t even know it’s Christmas. I lost it. I have no idea why. I suppose I expected that, for one day in the year, I would come first and the fact my parents couldn’t even manage that just got to me. So I told my Mum “if he can’t be arsed to be here, neither can I” and I left, but not after a few choice words with my Mother who was already on the vodka (let’s not even go there).
My Dad had had all week to visit his Mum but if he really wanted to go on Christmas Day I simply can’t work out why he couldn’t have waited until 2.30pm which is when I go home. Why did he have to go Christmas morning, when his Mum would either still be in bed or in the middle of being washed and dressed by the Carers and he knew I was expected? I’ve spent 20 years twiddling my thumbs on Christmas morning waiting for him and I’m not prepared to do it any more, not when there’s absolutely no need. My energy window is so small I literally have about 5 hours on Christmas day before I conk, and I guess it still hurts that my parents don’t ever vary their routine to fit around that fact.
I drove to one of my favourite places and sat in the car sobbing. I’d felt ill all week, had had barely any sleep and I was exhausted. Absolutely and utterly exhausted. So I had a pity party for one and wallowed in every second of it. I was then so tired I lay down in my car and napped.
After I came to, and sat with teeth chattering in the cold, I realized I’d have to go back, even though every cell in my body wanted not to. So I drove back to my parents and apologized for having a hissy fit. My Dad apologized for being “selfish” (he wasn’t being selfish, he was trying to be nice to his Mum but as usual did it at my expense) and promised he would never do it again – and I know he won’t. I apologized for the things I said to my Mum (even though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t the slightest bit sorry), who had had a few more vodkas in the hour I’d been away so just laughed the whole thing off.
We started to finally open our presents around 11.30am when there was a knock on the door. Who the fuck visits people on Christmas morning??! It was a family friend and, while it was nice to see her, her fiance and their dog, they were still sitting at our dining table at 1pm. They weren’t having their Christmas dinner til evening, but we were all bloody starving especially my Mum who doesn’t eat breakfast. I could also feel my limited energy draining away like water down a plug hole and I realized that if I didn’t do something I’d conk before I even got my lunch. So I eventually piped up “sorry guys, I’m going to chase you as we’re all ready for our dinner” which felt really rude but I was past caring! We then finished opening our presents and finally got our lunch at 2.15pm (nearly 2 hours after we’d planned).
By 3pm the week of shitty health, pain-riddled insomnia and the emotional upset of the morning made me feel like I’d gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali and I could barely put one foot past the other, but I still had to walk Bertie in the howling wind and lashing rain before getting home at 4pm. I couldn’t wait to get in my pjs, make a couple of hot water bottles for my back and stomach, crawl into bed and shut out the world. It was the first time I’d been happy all day.
My parents and I are going out for our roast Christmas dinner today and I’m dreading it. My Dad will be oblivious to the fact I feel like shite, and my Mum will be drunk and forcibly happy (or not drunk, argumentative and miserable). Yay. I can’t wait for today to be over, so I can come home and not have to visit my parents til the New Year!