Well, not Christmas, but Christmas shopping. Leaving the house to buy gifts that I can ill -afford for people who don't really need anything.
JR is off for the evening - sleeping over a friend's house. Friend's mom e-mailed me "Enjoy your evening." How do I say that I never really enjoy my evenings without JR? Even when being with him means we are procrastinating by hanging out on the couch watching yet another Disney comedy on TV instead of ... shopping, paying bills, cleaning, unpacking, whatever chore I could be doing that arguably is more necessary than spending time on the couch with my son. I still prefer being with him and I never prefer these nights when he is out of the house (no matter how many DVR'ed episodes of Top Chef or Project Runway I can watch uninterrupted).
So I have a free evening and Christmas is no longer weeks or days away but hours. Yet for more than half the folks on my list I have no present. The presents I do have are unwrapped.
Still I procrastinate.
I think I spent the first year or so after Joe's death in denial. Denial about the state of the family finances. Denial about the depth of my grief. I really thought that I was an "expert" in grief, having lost so many family members (nana, grandmother, mother, father, youngest brother). So I never expected that this loss, the loss of my husband, of JR's father, would be so outrageously difficult.
I work so hard at keeping up appearances. Everything is fine. We're doing great. Look at JR. He's happy. He has tons of friends. You would never know there is a hole in our family.
And mostly, I am great at this deception. I have so many friends and such a great social life and yet, tonight, my evening without JR when I should be off shopping for gifts, I am sitting here in tears, with no idea who I could even call.
Tomorrow morning I will go to the office. I will leave early and head off to the stores and somehow finish the list. I will meet up with JR and his babysitter. I will argue with JR about appropriate clothes for the evening. We will go to see the Nutcracker with Joe D's cousins, who care for us and take care of us. We will watch the daughter of one of Joe D's best friends dance in two of the dances. Then I will come home and frantically wrap presents. Christmas Eve will be filled with Joe D's family and with church. There will be lots of food. We will eat many, many dishes of fish. Presents will be exchanged. I will beg off early because we need to go home and get ready for Santa. JR will go to sleep. My co-worker and her son will come and help me set up JR's big present.
Christmas morning will arrive. Santa will have arrived. There will be magic, then disappointment. No dog, no signed Babe Ruth baseball, no hot tub. None of those big ticket items on the list that never did get sent to Santa. Maybe the in-laws will come to see the tree. Then dinner at my co-workers. Then on Monday, lunch at my cousins' house - where JR can play with her little ones and my aging aunt, a religious sister, will have a chance to see everyone.
And everyone I see will think that I am fine. And that this is a Merry Christmas.
But it is not.