Choosing Joy

My grandparents don’t really want to do Christmas this year. Grandma doesn’t want to put up the tree- Papa refuses to put out the lights. They proposed skipping the gift giving.

I don’t blame them. The past three could only be described as dismal. One year I just sat and stared at a thousand piece puzzle and wept- for a whole day. It’s not an easy time of year for us, and our traditions were so orchestrated and driven by mom that we are rather helpless in our efforts to replicate them.

At first I got angry. And frustrated. I wanted them to change their minds.

It would take some It’s A Wonderful Life level shit to bring us back from where we are right now. But I’m determined to try.

I spent the afternoon wringing out my brain, trying to coax every last bit of inspiration or memory that could help me figure out how to bring us back to life.

I consulted coworkers, I got into some google potholes which turned into trenches which turned into a pit which turned into the google abyss. And no matter how hard you google, no matter how funky you get with the wording, you only ever find fluffy lists. “10 Gift Ideas for a Cranky Grandpa”- and you know one of them is going to be a shitty t shirt that would just make him more cranky.

So it was back to mining my own noggin for info. What do they love? What are they missing? What do we need to be reminded of? Where do we fall short? How is our relationship lacking?

And then it hit me. I didn’t need to be thinking about them. I needed to be thinking about me.

I know that sounds wrong, STAY WITH ME-

I can’t control how they feel. I can’t control what they think and what they remember and where their minds travel when they smell cookies in the oven or hear the zip of the scissor edge curling a ribbon.

But I can control how I make them feel.

I can make them feel appreciated. Seen. Heard. Noticed. Loved. Whatever I do won’t matter- it will be the sentiment behind it.

So I started to think. What can I bring to the table? Lighthearted play? A willingness to be silly?

And then I had it. A pet goldfish! A giant, homemade version of Papa’s favorite dessert- the glorious Fiber1 bar! Doing face masks with grandma! These are things we have NEVER done before and never would have considered but… I’m gonna push us to try. To let go a little, to lean in to how new and uncomfortable the holiday feels without her.

It takes strength to be silly in the face of sadness. You’ve got to be creative if you’re going to find any joy in the despair. You must grab your bravery and your determination, hold them close, if you wish to carry the weight and help others a little with theirs. It’s a choice. And you have to be ready to make it every day. Every hour. Every minute. And if you slip- it’s okay. Catch your breath and then get back up.

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