Christmases Without Mom: #3.

This is my third Christmas without my mom (in case the title wasn’t clear enough), and it’s still pretty weird.

Here are the words I find in my heart: Moms aren’t supposed to die when their kids are under forty. I’m not supposed to already be half an orphan.

These are stupid thoughts, I tell myself, and even harmfully ignorant. I’m well aware mothers die young. I was almost one myself, when a miscarriage came very close to claiming my life as well as my child’s.

Stupid or not, ignorant or not, here I sit at Christmas, and my mom is still gone.

She was young. On her 40th wedding anniversary, she drowned in an accident so shocking I can barely believe it happened. Police reports fail to make it more real.

Christmas has become weird.

My family’s chemistry changed. It turns out she was the peacemaker. She was the link between. She was the one who sent cards and signed both names, the person with addresses and birthday calendars and relationships spanning six decades.

Without her, my father is lost, my brother is starved for approval, my aunts refuse to speak to one another, and various cousins make and break alliances as though we were angry neighboring countries rather than kin.

Really, I misspoke. Christmas isn’t weird. It’s war.

I sit now in my father’s house in Vegas, deeply glad my husband is here to help me surf the waves of bitterness and strangeness and racist jokes and awkward silences, and I land on a unnerving question: were they this way before my mother died? The little girl in me says no. The woman says they must have been, and mom somehow shielded me. Or perhaps I was just blind.

Either way, it’s a weird, warring Christmas, and I want it to end. Either way, without my mom, this family stabs itself, then bleeds for its trouble. Either way, I can’t wait to leave here.

I can’t wait to go home.

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