Everyone has their own family traditions. Ours have always been, complicated.
The only “tradition” I can say we’ve actually upheld, is wanting to kill each other long before the day is over.
This year is the first year we’re celebrating without our brother. The first year since he took his own life with a deadly drug cocktail of heroine and fentanyl. Like many others, this is the first year that our home will feel empty, and our hearts will struggle to feel full.
Truth be told, this isn’t REALLY our first holiday season without him. Last year we choose not to celebrate really. We met up separately to exchange gifts. We had a hurried, quiet lunch for Thanksgiving, without him.
He was already gone.
Every interaction with him was the same. It started off anxious. He was always on edge, which kept us right there with him. It ended with slamming doors, raised voices, and broken hearts.
We made the conscious decision to leave him out of the festivities. He’d been hard to be around for a while. Even harder to be away from. You were always worried about where he was sleeping, who he was with, and if this would be the night you got that final phone call.
We didn’t want to remember him like this.
We wanted our “last holiday” memories of him to be while he was still trying his hardest to stay sober, even if he was failing. When he was willing to brave a cold, and sleep on the floor of our gutted, flood ravished home, just to make sure that he was as far away from a needle as he could get. Wrapped up in a hand me down thermal jumpsuit, tearing away the rotten insulation and boards, tossing them into a single wood stove to stay warm.
Now I remember him in that hospital bed instead. Holding his hand and my breath, as I walked ex girlfriends, estranged lovers, family and friends back to his room to say their goodbyes.
And this will be my first Christmas without him.
The boy with the stutter. The boy that was too tall and too thin. The boy who helped me move and fixed whatever I needed. The boy that never had the chance to become a man.
Remember this year, if you miss someone you love, that you’re not alone.
We all have someone we miss.