Over the past nine years in our house, Thanksgiving was always more about a nice family meal followed by a combination of Black Friday shopping and Thanksgiving Weekend hockey tournaments. Being Jewish, Christmas was about seeing pretty lights and, more importantly, keeping the fridge stocked with eggnog for Micah, Avi and Cynthia — and, if we were all home, about eating at the local Chinese restaurant and catching a movie.
Hanukkah, amongst the most minor of the Jewish holidays, was really my family’s closest time together. We would spend eight (or close to eight) evenings enjoying each other’s company, lighting our family set of menorahs, exchanging gifts (okay–usually just giving gifts to the kids), and hanging out for a little while. When Avi and Micah were younger, we had a tradition of reading, then later making Micah read, a Hanukkah story to Avi before we would open gifts. Even when we went out of town for hockey–or just to go somewhere and do something different, we still tried to follow our little tradition. I remember one particular year that we were in San Diego at the start of Hanukkah, and tried to find an inexpensive menorah and candles we could light together at the hotel. We wound up settling for a series of small candle holders and cheap candles from Ikea — but it was important to us to take those few minutes and light the make-shift menorah together.
December has arrived.
It’s quiet upstairs.
As the hours pass,
The sound of weeping is too frequently heard.
As the days pass,
The reminders pile up.
Things that seemed inconsequential
Take on new meaning.
Moments taken for granted
Now slow down the clock hands.
The rest of our lives now spent with
He had a millions things
He was going to do.
It’s quiet upstairs.
December will turn to January.
2016 will become 2017.
It will remain quiet upstairs.
I know that no time will truly heal this wound. No prayer, no matter how thoughtful, how devout, no matter in what tongue or what religion, will replace the missing boy that was becoming a man. “Happy Thanksgiving” is a noble wish, a generous thought and spirit–but–much like that prayer for my son to stop at the office door and ask me to play Guitar Hero–it is a wish that cannot today come true.
I have wandered in a haze for the past two weeks. Coworkers have commented that I looked distracted, sad, like I did not feel well. I did not. I do not. But what can I do, besides go on, try to function as close to “normal” as possible–whatever that might mean on a brisk December morning.
There is an emotional immune system. Our physical immune system, when we are tired and run-down, exhausted and weary, does not provide the same level of protection against virus and disease. My emotional “immune system” is there–right there. It is so beaten down and exhausted that I have found myself losing the ability to control my emotional responses. I will tear up reading a minute entry. I will over-emote about a minor issue or concern. I will feel my mental processes grind to a halt as my emotions strand me in a place of indecision and confusion.
And still I go on. Still I push and pull my way through my daily routine. I keep myself busy, so I can’t tell how quiet it us upstairs. Upstairs in my house. Upstairs in my mind.
Please forgive me if you ask me about my holiday plans and the words don’t come out–or come out right. Please understand if I do not attend a holiday party, or wish you a happy holiday as seamlessly as I have in years past. If I look content or happy, know that it is taking a lot of effort to focus on positive things and hold back “the other.”