A stranger gives me an envelope, a Christmas card, written to the Leamy Family. And I’m undone. He’s gone. I’m alone. At home. There is no Leamy Family here. This is the season when my family was broken. I don’t talk about it. I’ve written about it indirectly in one of my novels but that’s all.
This time of year is hell. I don’t celebrate Christmas. I can’t. I don’t know how to empty my head of the images of mum in the ICU with so many machines strapped to her, trapped to her unconscious mind. Was she though? Or did she hear me? I don’t know.
It was this time, mid December, that Mum fell down the stairs at her home, and lay there unconscious till found by my niece and nephew and Pete the next day. The morning? That doesn’t make sense. It must have been after school. Mum had been getting the decorations down for them all to set up the house together, make it festive.
Instead, a week later, was it really that long before I got a flight? I made it home. Pete picked me up at the airport. He was ashen. My cousins waited at Mum’s home for me. My aunts, her younger sisters. All silent. I said, I’m scared. Paul said, you should be. Helen tried not to cry.
The first time I saw Mum I fell. My body gave out. I collapsed at her hospital bed. Nurses rushed around, gathering me up, closing curtains, giving me space. I was alone. I couldn’t look at her battered and bruised swollen face.
This was Christmas.
I held her hand. Every day for the next three weeks, I held her hand. All afternoon. In the mornings, they, the doctors and nurses worked on her, testing to see how much brain damage there was. Too much. She was not coming back.
This was Christmas. For the Leamy Family.
Today, I’m compelled to write about this. Why, I don’t know. It’s just how I move on. Perhaps? The one thing for which I’m grateful is how my cousins, aunts and uncles kept the space for Pete and I to be there with Mum. I’d talk to her all afternoon. Someone would drop me off at the hospital. Another pick me up in the evening. I told Mum everything I’d never said directly. For this time, I’m thankful. I got to say goodbye.
A month later, I was back in my little home in New Mexico. It was barely inhabitable. Broken windows, carpet on a dirt floor, no running water, wood stove, and mattress on the floor. A package waited for me at the Post Office. From Mum.
Christmas presents. A card. The Leamy Family.
This is what is in my head during this time of year. It’s eight years now but I can’t shift the images and grief. It lingers, floods, drops me to the floor. My home is comfortable now. A welcome respite from the holiday cheer. And then someone says something generous, heart felt, and I crumble.
I know I’m not the only one with these kinds of memories. I’m not the only grieving and unable to move on. But I do my best. Put on the happy face for everyone. Myself included. What am I doing for Christmas, you ask. I have no fucking clue. Eat. Sleep. Walk the dogs. The usual. Try not to think of hospitals and funerals and trees and lights and presents and dinners. No. I’ll walk the hills, talk to Mum and Dad, feed the dogs the dinner I can’t stomach, and wish I had just one more card from my mum.