The year they died, Christmas was a walk of Zombies. I received almost all sweaters from my mother because in her daze of Christmas shopping, she chose the first magazine in the stack and ordered everything I had dog-eared. To this day I wish I had put anything other than J. Crew on top of her catalog mountain. I still have some of those sweaters because a) they're warm and cozy and feel like a hug and b) memories. I have a hard time parting with a lot of things from that year. I have his coffee cups, his hats, shirts that I wish still hinted of his scent and the silver box that I still can't bear to wear the contents of. In fact, the jewelry is still in the plastic.
I have posted about him very few times, but Fred was in every way my dad that my real father could/would not be. He built my first bike, I was the first baby he had held, he protected me and comforted me and called me his "MelonKallay Baby". He was, at that point in my life, a man I could look up to. Someone I could trust and love and believe would never hurt me. After he moved to Vegas he began sending me silver boxes with jewelry in them. I still have most, if not all of them. Here is an excerpt from a post this year:
When Fred died, a piece of my heart went with him but I still have the most precious gift... my memories. Here is one of my favorites...
When Fred moved to Las Vegas to pursue his career in the FBI he started a new tradition. Every Christmas I would receive a silver box with real silver and turquoise jewelry. He'll never know how much it meant to me, but every Christmas I would look for that box because I knew it would be there. It was like he was there, for that moment, and it was everything to me. So when he died that December I knew my silver box would not be under the tree. When my family went to Vegas a few days later for his funeral I was given what was to be my last silver box. To this day it is my most treasured possession, among all of his t-shirts and things that I have... this is what I would miss the most if it were lost. It's a silent reminder that he thought of me as much as I thought of him. He was my daddy for all intents and purposes and it's like having a piece of him with me always. I have never worn the jewelry in the box in the 12 years since he's been gone. I just can't bring myself to do it. But it's there and it's a gift I can reopen over and over again.
As I write this post, my heart aches. I remember a Christmas knock on the door and there he stood. It was all I wanted for Christmas that year. I can't help but wonder what he would say if he were here, what the silver box would hold this year, as I wonder every year. I miss him more than I could ever convey in a written language. It's an odd feeling knowing you will never be able to see your favorite person again. It exceeds pain and I'm not sure what to say beyond that. It's a loss for words, that's for sure.
The year he died, as I said, we all walked around like the living dead. Julie, his step daughter, and one of my "sisters" died with him. She was close in age to my sister and was a part of our family as well. Her mother is my mom's best friend and like a second mother to my sister and me. It was a devastating year for all of us and we clung to each other for support. I was a teenager then so my hormones put me as close to crazy as one could get. At the time, my world was a complete fog, but I remember everything as vividly as if it were today. We put our Christmas tree(s) up that year and somehow found a way to celebrate in spite of the utter terror of what had happened.
As we hung the ornaments, my mom hung her silver, glitter encrusted spider's web and made a wish, as she has done every year and shortly after I found these 2 golden bells. They became Fred and Julie's bells. That year, I hung them together, on the same branch, near the Angel that once adorned the top of our tree. And then I cried. I prayed through my tears that they were up there with God. That He would welcome them with love into heaven and let them peek down on us every once in a while. That they were resting peacefully. And for the next few years, until I moved away from home, I hung the bells. I learned the saying "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." that year and until this year, I had never seen It's a Wonderful Life. I liked the saying anyway and rang the bells, just to be sure.
I was building the Barbie tree this year, thinking up snarky things to say about the blonde "bimbo" as Fred would say, and I picked up a wad of tissue paper with ornaments in it. I set it aside because Barbie only comes in a box. My mom helped me put the boxes back into the fifteenth Rubbermaid and I heard her take a gulp of air. I turned around, my hand went to my mouth and my bells lay on the tissue paper in front of me. My eyes welled up with tears as I ran my finger over the familiar ornaments. "My bells" I said.
I hung them on the tree, said another prayer and documented with pictures, as any good blogger would do.
For those dealing with loss in this holiday season, my heart goes out to you. My tears roll down my cheeks for you. I know the pain of losing a loved one and how Christmas somehow becomes salt in that wound. It's been 13 years since we lost Fred and Julie and every year we honor them, we remember them. We laugh at their stories, we cry over our loss. No one will ever be able to replace the one you loved. Over time, this will be a comfort to you. Your love for them will grow even in their absence. Your memories will become more vivid. You may not remember all of the lines on their face, but you will remember their smile or their eyes. Odd things will trigger your memory, and like me and my silver boxes, they will bring comfort, not pain. I think of these moments as a tap on my shoulder, as if he's saying, "I'm here kiddo." This Christmas, I challenge you to start a new tradition for your loved one. I have so much to hold on to during the holidays and as time has gone on, I cherish these little things. To a stranger on the street, a silver box is just a container for jewelry, for me, it's a container for a piece of my heart, and what comfort it brings during this cold winter holiday.
At the beginning of this post, you saw a pretty picture of 2 golden bells hanging on a tree.
Now you see 2 tiny pieces of my heart, my memories, my comfort, my joy.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. Hold them tight and love them well.
With love and joy,