Here we are again – that jolly season when so many people cry themselves to sleep or say “To hell with it” and attempt suicide. For me it’s another birthday, now heading toward 60 faster and faster, and another holiday season. If I didn’t love being a fire sign that’s honest to a fault, I’d hate having a birthday so near Christmas. I sure hated it when I was a kid, and always got a combo birthday/Christmas gift.
We were hell’a poor. It was just me and my grandmother. She earned only minimum wage or even less when she was paid per piece when she sewed from her overwhelming stack of collars, cuffs, and waistbands at the factory. One gift is usually all there was. Here’s the pic that I found online that most looks like my grandmother at her factory. If I had thought to take one when I was that young, it wouldn’t have survived all my moves since then, anyway. It would probably have ended up in Puerto Rico when she retired, lost to a hurricane or a relative’s “junk purging”. Not a very good family for preserving memories.
I’m a loner now, just as I was as a child, only now I’m a crone who no longer seeks popularity or approval, just as my abuelita was. Sure, I’m human. I want to be remembered, to get a personal birthday and/or holiday message from friends from the past, a call or visit from present friends, or a note on my Facebook page or a message on my Skype voice mail from the kids. And I get those messages, but less and less every year, as more friends and family die, year after year. And, face it, except for three of my closest younger family members, I’m an asshole. I don’t remember their birthdays, and don’t send them cards. What’s it like to be 70, or 80, or 90, during this season? I guess it’ll be fine, once I start keeping company with ghosts, after those younger relatives get as cranky and forgetful as I am now.
A local church brings me little token Christmas gifts and gift cards from strangers, as they know I’m literally a thousand miles from what little family I have, but I don’t go to church. It’s a helpful, nice gesture. Ironically, the very fact that the gifts come from church ladies reminds me that I’m very alone, so much so that I get remembered as a charitable act, a tithe for someone else’s afterlife reservation for a residence up above, instead of down below. Here’s a pic I found of the Homophobic Army, er, I mean the Salvation Army, doing that charitable thang.
I fake joy when I get those gifts, like the lady above. But you know what I’m really thinking as I smile from ear to ear? “Thank the goddess the kids got me some weed and a gift card for a new sex toy at the women-owned sex store!”
Rarely will anyone send cards via snail mail anymore. And I don’t disclose my birth date on FB, so I don’t get those “heartfelt” birthday wishes from people I don’t even remember I friended. And face it, FB invades our privacy enough without having that or even my true name.
The Santa Fe tobacco company (really a subsidiary of Big Tobacco now) always sends me a birthday card. I’m amazed that I forgot to lie to them online about my birth date, but when it comes to getting a free sample of that nicotine drug, I get wild and throw caution to the wind! They apparently have no clue that theirs is probably the only birthday card that many of us seniors who still smoke will get, and that it will bring memories of our younger days, when more of our loved ones were alive and in touch. Here’s a pic of last year’s card, with embedded wildflower seeds which I forgot to throw in dirt, as directed. I wonder where it is now?
I give my gifts as I find them, not when proscribed. Friends and family don’t have to stress about adding me to “The List”. There’s enough damn stress, and I prefer giving and getting good surprises out of the blue. I’m likely to overspend for the grandkid, and for my niece’s kids if she’s struggling and can’t put as many gifts as she’d like under the tree. But adults? Nope. Those who feel best adding me for Dec. 25th are free to. Those who’d rather share gifts of time or things can feel free to share them when I need it most, or when they feel best for sharing them. And let’s face it: Living on Social Security, or earning less for working harder than we did decades ago, does not leave much in our budgets to save for one big shopping orgy. Why am I on SS after only three-plus decades of work? Cause my bones are shit, dear. And taking orders from idiots makes me homicidal.
What always does come up this time of year is the friends and family lost in the past year and years. It’s inevitable. If we were close, their absence is sharpest when we realize the yearly memories, captured in photos, cards and nowadays videos, will never include them again. If we weren’t close anymore but wish we still had been, the loss of any chance to ever be close again will roil in our bellies, as we try to choke down too much food to please the hardworking cook who busted her/his ass to make us forget, celebrate, and focus on chewing and savoring.
There are suicides among my family and friends. Sudden ones. Long, slow ones. So if you’re grieving one, you’re not alone. If you’re considering doing it yourself, DON’T! Not now, not tonight. Call, text, contact anyone who will care and be gentle with you. Hell, drop a comment below, I’ll answer you. Use a hotline if you feel no one you know does care – though it’s probably the blues talkin’ if you feel utterly alone.
But maybe, circumstances, even your own past misbehavior, real or perceived, might have left you as alone as you feel. That can change, if you just give time a chance. It won’t change if you quit and don’t wait, if you don’t ask for forgiveness. You don’t have to kneel, whip yourself, or grovel. Just ask. If you’re truly selfish, what the hell, do it for the most selfish reason – to make yourself feel better! I won’t tell.
If you need approval to grieve this dark, expensive, fake-it-til-you-seem-jolly season, if you need permission to not even pretend to feel jolly, you have my approval, you have my permission. Run with it! Know that you won’t grieve forever, even though it can feel like you’re stuck in quicksand that won’t swallow you, but won’t let you go either.
Dare to imagine the day when you notice it isn’t getting dark outside so early anymore. Spring really is coming. But only if you don’t piss me off and quit, and off yourself. Not today. Not this week. Not this month, dammit!
Let’s do this again, next year!