It's bittersweet and at times such as this I retreat into Johnny Cash. The melancholy is appropriate, because for just a few minutes I plan on being completely self-indulgent, and just feeling sorry for myself.
I can let the sadness wash over and consume me, but not for long; in a moment I have to go back to being husband, dad, crazy Brit. Roles I enjoy with family that I love and who know that, especially at Christmas, a little bit of me is a long way away.
Twenty years ago tomorrow, in a land far away, a child was born. He entered the world at seven thirty am on Christmas morning. So when the morning arrives as it surely will, my son will no longer be a teenager. What he actually will be, if what I have seen on Facebook today is true, is a well and truly hungover twenty-year-old. Serves him right
I feel so damned torn. Christmas, for me, has always been the single most important family time. Once a year we can all be assured that we will be together. We will laugh, argue, eat and drink. My Mum will cheat at board games and call it "interpretive" while producing food fit for a King.
Mum won't be around either, because she and Dad are in South Africa, with my younger son. So he will be missing too. I miss them all so much.
So I sit and consider the decisions we make. The life-changing choices that bring with them so much that is beautiful and positive, yet cost so much in other ways. I contemplate that the Christmases of my childhood, youth and young adult life will never happen again. Never again will we get everyone even on the same continent, let alone in the same house. My brother went to Australia where he lived a very happy life, until he died too young and right now, I want him back.
I am vastly more fortunate than many, and those are blessings I count frequently. I am fifty three years old and both my parents are alive and healthy which is more than can be said for many. Our family has experienced heartache, every family has, yet we have been more fortunate than many but still we are separated by many thousands of miles.
We are only separated from most of Jodie's family by about sixty miles, but we probably aren't going to see them either. I'm blaming weatherdude and the coming winter storm for that. For years now, surrounding myself by my in-laws has been one way that I have been able to allow my own emotions to have and hold the feelings from the past. To keep alive the warmth of family, the large congregation, the children and their noise and excitement. The people are different but the comfort derived from their pleasure at each other is very familiar.
And I sit here knowing that millions of people experience something similar. Indeed many are rather less fortunate and this holiday season is an annual reminder of indescribable pain. We have all had a very recent reminder that for lots of families Christmas will never be the same. Never again be the joyful occasion of my childhood, and they didn't choose that. At least I am an adult, free to make choices and if I am sad occasionally, well that is something I have to deal with.
If you are reading this, and are one of those for whom this time of year represents something personal and painful, then please allow me to extend as much warmth and human spirit as I am able, in your direction tonight.
If you are out there and have had a tough year, please allow me to use some of my inner self to extend the wish that your life is easier, a little more prosperous maybe, in the coming year.
If you are one of those who has a need for some comfort, are newly bereaved, sick or simply feeling sad, then take from me whatever you need that it might relieve that burden.
In a few moments I will shake this off. Return to three children who are going to demand supper, safe in the knowledge that supper will be forthcoming. They will sleep tonight happy, with full bellies and an anticipation of gifts in the morning. That I am thankful for and I don't want you going away with the feeling that I bemoan my lot. I do not. I made my choices and am very happy with the outcome. But just sometimes ....
Sometimes I listen to Johnny Cash.
Go now. Enjoy your families in whatever manner you celebrate the season. I will simply wish everyone a Happy Christmas, and have a terrific New Year.