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Christmas Eve, 2003

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When I was about four or five, we moved up north, leaving our family behind. I don’t remember what life was like before then. I do remember that after the first blizzard I was ready to pack up and go back home—but we were stuck there several years.

We went home every year, for a week I believe, at Christmas time. I believe it was a ten- to twelve-hour drive … one way. Six of us … three boys, my parents, and myself … all crammed in a car. That was bad enough, but it was really horrid should anybody have gas. With four males, we should’ve been called the Gas Family. I wanted the Ingalls Family. Or the Partridge Family … they would’ve been cool. But no, I got the Gas Family. So naturally, I can beat about any man in about any contest. Oh yes, I make my brothers proud. Of course I can’t get or keep a man but I guess I didn’t really need a husband.

But to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins—we obviously considered it worth it as we did it every year. This was my mom’s side of the family. A bunch of comedian wannabes … can you tell? Although most of my dad’s family was around the same area, we rarely got to see them. Just my mom’s seven living siblings and all of their offspring crammed within my grandparent’s very small three-bedroom house. But we obviously didn’t mind as we did it every year.

Christmas of 1978, I got a Barbie doll that was supposed to stand on something and you were supposed to be able to push something and make her swivel around. She didn’t work, so the minute I got the OK I handed her to grandpa … will you fix her for me? I don’t know how long he tried but he couldn’t make her work either. I remember he felt bad … poor grandpa; it was just a stupid Barbie. That year he had a lump on his neck. He was going to go in for a biopsy—a simple procedure. He assured me he would be fine. So I went back up north assuming all was well … except for Barbie. Grandpa had his biopsy on a Friday and came home. He was sick by Friday night or Saturday, in the hospital by Saturday or Sunday, and dead by Monday—January 29, 1979—of cancer.

With my Grandpa, we also lost an aunt and three cousins … disowned just like that. Christmas was never the same again. I didn’t even want to have the last several Thanksgivings, Christmases, or New Years. I was like, let’s just go out to eat, leave the mess somewhere else so I don’t have to cook it and clean it up. Grandma died a week before Christmas 1997, which further ruined the holidays for us. Then we get around to Christmas of 2003.

My mom had been on a diet and lost a bunch of weight. But Christmas Eve of 2003, you could tell it wasn’t just that. Everybody demanded that she go to a doctor. One minute they’re telling her she’s got either bronchitis or pneumonia, fluid around her heart and lungs, and possibly a small spot of cancer near a kidney. By the next visit, it’s the fourth or fifth stage of cancer. Before she could get a wig and start chemo, she was in the hospital. On January 24, 2004, she died of lung cancer. 

She was the one keeping what was left of her family together. In fact, the last several years we had the yearly parties at her house. During her hospital stay and funeral, we destroyed several relationships. Her house is still in the family and the parties are still held there, but I’ll never go to another one. I’ve had no one to mourn with. My only child acts like it didn’t even happen. And now she’s off in Texas chasing a man. Life goes on.


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