F*ck Christmas.

December 24th, 2010 was a very exciting day for me. At the time, I had 3 roommates, although good people – were awful roommates. This was the one day, finally, that all three of them would be out of the house, at home visiting their families. I had that Christmas Eve off, I was scheduled to work the next day, Christmas, but at least I had the one day and night alone. I planned it carefully- I went to the beverage depot and bought 2 bottles of champagne and a six pack of Irish cider. I had a food stock which would feed either a family for a week, or a stoner for a night (I am neither). I had DVR’d a handful of holiday classics as well as a few randoms in order to watch, marathon style.

I woke up early, eager to pop the first bottle. I watched movies, plugged in Christmas lights and thought how fun it was to enjoy The Christmas Spirit. The day was filled with silliness and drinking. I sprawled over my sectional couch, didn’t do the dishes and didn’t even change out of pajamas. That was the first Christmas in a long time that I thought to myself “It’s time to start making my own Christmas traditions.” Since I left home in 2003, I’d only been “home” for a few Christmas’ but I’ve always been able to go home at some point in December. Last year was the first time I realized that won’t always be possible. I was sad that I didn’t have a Christmas tree that I could decorate with decorations from a box I kept stored throughout the year and would intrinsically pull out every December. I decided even if my traditions were movie and champagne based, well, at least they’d be mine. Last year, after a tipsy viewing of the original “Miracle on 34th Street” I even wrote a letter to Santa, overwhelmed by sentimentality.

My dad called me about 5 in the evening and after the general catch up I quickly had to excuse myself from the conversation because I was too tipsy off the first bottle of champagne to continue. I needed a nap. I told him to call me at 7, because I was going to wake up in time to watch “It’s a wonderful life.” I overslept and missed the beginning of the viewing on TV, but luckily I had it recorded on DVR so I could catch up. Having overslept I also missed the as-scheduled call from my Dad. He left a message and I decided to check it another time as I didn’t want to miss the movie I had never seen the entirety of. After the spirit renewing ending of the movie, I stayed up late watching the other Christmas classics like “Kung Fu Panda” and “Horton Hears a Who.” I remember loving those movies for being so surprisingly existential and thought provoking for being just simply children’s movie.

Christmas morning I awoke to the buzzing of my phone. It was 8 something in the morning and my brother was calling me surely to obnoxiously sing Christmas carols so I hit ignore and went to settle back into bed. When the screen cleared and I saw my phone had blown up with 4 texts, 10 missed calls and several voice messages – from only my mom and brother – I figured maybe I should call back. I called my brother, who picked up the phone calmly and assuredly.

“Merry Christmas?” I asked.
“Duff,” he started “Dad died.”

My world, my heart, stopped. A part of me figured that would have to have been the reason why my brother on the West Coast and my mother on the East Coast were both calling me, in the Midwest, at this ungodly hour. However, I had a small hope that they were just trying to piss me off with holiday jingles. I tore the covers off me and immediately paced my apartment, with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t breathe. My brother started crying at my reaction and I think he felt bad that he had to tell me, on Christmas morning and from 1500 miles away. We weren’t ready for it.

Getting home was long and tedious, because no one knows what you’re going through. At one point I wanted to announce to the entire United Wing that my father died that Morning, but I didn’t think that would go over well and it wouldn’t have gotten me to California any faster. Once I got home I realized that everything I packed made no sense, whatsoever. I think I was going through the motions of putting stuff in a suitcase but not actually paying attention to anything. I believe it was something like 30 pairs of underwear, 8 pairs of tights, a skirt (which I had never worn) and 3 tee shirts. So, I learned I’m not a good in-shock-packer.

My brother told me that the last time he saw my dad he had asked him what he wanted to do for Christmas and my dad, ever so gentlemanly responded “F*ck Christmas!” He was done. It wasn’t the same for him anymore. His kids were grown up, I hadn’t been home for at least 3 Christmas’ at that point, it was nothing more than a commercial holiday to him. He was always the biggest Christmas fan. He loved it, solely for the excuse of buying a Christmas tree to freshen up the apartment. I loved the finished product of a Christmas tree, however I hated the picking, paying, driving, carrying and the worst part – getting it straight in that god damned stand. It caused a lot of tension in the household, but once it was over so was the tension and we would sit and enjoy the lights well into January. But only after a lot of cussing.

This year, I bought a fake one. It’s three feet, perfectly symmetrical and absolutely wonderful. I have only a few decorations on it and 2 strands of lights. I plug it in everyday as soon as the sun goes down. Sometimes I leave it on when I go to sleep so I can see the bright pink hue streaming from my living room. This year, I am not going “home.” I don’t really have a “home” anymore- I have a hometown. Now, my home is where I live. My little one bedroom apartment in Uptown, Chicago. Unlike last year I’m working this Christmas Eve and have the 25th off. However, my plan is the same, almost. I’m going to buy (just one this time) bottle of champagne, and some healthy food to cook. I have a few holiday movies on hand, and need to find a few unorthodox ones to throw into the mix.

Only when I was a kid was Christmas about presents. My parents had plenty of hard times, where there weren’t new playstations, boomboxes or cars in the cards for Christmas. There was one year where my immediate family decided only to do either gifts of things we already owned or could make. I remember my brother made me a “w” out of a paper clip because that was from part of my favorite story on the Sesame Street Christmas album we had. It was a Burt and Ernie ‘Gift of the Magi’ story. I still have that paper clip in my wallet.

The other day I was on the bus home from work and overheard an older gentleman, that reminded me of my dad, talking about health care sitting behind me. He was in a very pish-tosh Christmas way and I wanted to give him a hug. I don’t know if he had family to go home to, or anywhere at all. That moment I realized how lucky I was that although I couldn’t be with my entire family, they were always reachable. A plane ride away. A phone call away. My dad is around too, in spirit. I can feel him.

My dad was a great guy. He touched so many lives. I miss him so incredibly much sometimes because of his ability to automatically take my side on things. I miss his giggle. I miss him calling me to ask me the most ridiculous questions like “how does the internet work” or “my phone keeps beeping, how do I make it stop.” I also miss him every time I see a commercial for a stupid new TV show… he would have loved it! I could only call him before 10pm and after 12pm at night, because those were prime-time hours in California. My favorite was asking what he had for dinner:

“Dad, what do you mean you had pudding? You have to eat more than that!”
“Well, I had cheese and crackers for lunch. You know the kind with the red spreader. Did you know they have pretzels now too that you can dip in the cheese?! It’s so good. So that was my protein for today…”

I would just sit, laughing silently on the other end of the phone and then lightly scold him that he needed to eat more vegetables. He was doing exactly what he wanted. Also, he always had a big bag of candy by his bed. Actually, I think my brother does too… It’s funny that he chose Christmas day to pass. Of all the days… That’s how special my dad was though. Never wanted to be ordinary. This Christmas will be a tough one for our family, but I believe it will be followed by many, many happy ones. My dad, Joe, always believed in celebrating life, so it’s only fitting to celebrate his life annually with the baby Jesus.

I miss you, Dad. Merry Christmas.

2 thoughts on “F*ck Christmas.

  1. I love this one Duff. I swear I read F*ck Christmas in your Dad’s voice 😉 Only you could write about your dad dying and Christmas and still make Christmas sound like the most amazing day in the world. Your dad was an incredible guy and I think about him a lot… just like everyone else that knew him, I’m sure. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your dinner and movies and most of all champagne! We ❤ you and miss you.

  2. I miss your Dad’s smile so much. From the very first time I met him, he treated me like family and that never went away. This blog is full of so many amazing and heartbreaking memories and I’m so glad you have all of them written down…what a gift. ❤

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