Holidays and Divorce: Will I ever enjoy them again?

It is Easter Sunday morning and my heart is full of sadness. I didn’t expect Easter to be hard. After all, I trudged through my 40th birthday, our 10 year anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines Day alone, what is one more day? I was wrong, it is just as hard as it was the first special event that I faced alone. To explain my feelings to you: I feel empty, lonely, sad, isolated and ALONE! More than anything, I feel forgotten, not worth fighting for and I wonder if anything I ever did in my last 40 years meant a thing to anyone. To add more depth to that statement, I am not suicidal: I am pouty and feeling more than a little sorry for myself.

As a kid, all of my holidays were spent with family. Though my parents divorced when I was 5, my Grandparents (maternal and paternal) more than adequately filled the void that a child may feel living in a one parent home. My mother was not a “holiday” person, for as long as I remember she was Bah Humbug about everything. My Grandmother’s (plural) were of a different sort. Holidays meant pre holiday evenings spent in the kitchen, making all the men and grandchildren favorite recipes: the day of the holiday was filled with food, laughter and family love. My Grandmothers birthday was 5 days after mine, every year, our family would gather at my Grandmothers house and have a huge birthday pig picking, Thanksgiving was the same, Christmas meant going to both sets of Grandparents and enjoying different traditions with each. My maternal Grandmother made a nummy nummy sweet potato pie and my paternal grandmother would can cinnamon pickles. The memories of my childhood holidays are filled with warmth, love and laughter. As I began to grow into womanhood, I knew in my heart, this was the feeling and memories that I wanted to share with my husband and children. In my first marriage, my MIL was a traditional woman who spent every holiday in the kitchen. I was elated the first Christmas she invited me into her kitchen to help her cook. A tradition was began and every holiday after I could be found with my apron on and my hip bone permanently planted in front of her stove. Age set in, illness and time passed and eventually I took the traditions into my home. As my kids grew, I would be that excited Mom, looking forward to placing flour paw prints on our floor Easter morning, placing baskets filled with their favorites at their door and smelling the aroma of ham, green bean casserole and fresh-baked bread fill our home. After the excitement of all the Easter candy, we would make our way to church in our little pastel outfits, to return home and devour our meal. Easter afternoon was spent in the recliner, on the couch or in the bed, napping off all those carbs, but there was not a person in my home who was not wearing a smile.

Once the first husband and I divorced I refused to give up my traditions. My kids were still young and holidays were still celebrated in our home, just without the presence of a male role. My second husband and I met and I remember the excitement in showing him my cooking skills our first Thanksgiving together. He loved the way I cherished the holidays and I would see excitement on his face every year too. As my kids grew older, found a life of their own and were sometimes not present at our holiday luncheons, I stood my ground and still refused to give them up. I remember it only being my husband, daughter and myself for a few holidays in the most recent years. Though my heart hurt looking at the empty seats at my dining table, I was mature enough to accept life goes on and children grow, and I was proud that the hubby and I had not forgotten or gave up on our traditions.

This last year has been so different.

The first special day was our 10 year anniversary in August. I did not get out of bed all day and I never stopped crying for 2 days. My 40th birthday was lots of fun and filled with great friends but there was that emptiness of not having that special someone by my side, celebrating my life. Thanksgiving and Christmas were horrid. In divorce, the public has a common misconception: they believe divorce is an option (whether you were for it or not) and they tend to not realize the emptiness and loneliness that divorce leaves on a soul. In my circumstance, once the holidays were over, I received many phone calls asking about my holidays. Once they discovered I was alone all day, each day, they gave a heart-felt apology and the common statement “Oh, I just assumed you’d be with your family for the holidays or I would have asked you over!” was offered. What they fail to realize, I lost my entire family in one short year. My two sons are 22 and 21 and both left for Air Force Basic Training in Jan and May respectively. My youngest son is in GA, 9 hours away and though my oldest son is based here in NC, the military rotates holidays. That are not going to always have holidays off and even if they do, they may not have the time available to make it home. My daughter moved out in November, is enjoying her life as an 18-year-old and honestly has no interest in holidays with mom. Need I remind anyone, in 21 short days, I will be officially divorced.

Christmas 2011 was filled with the sounds of my three children running down the stairs in anticipation of what was under the tree, the smells of turkey and gravy simmering in the oven, the sight of ripped Christmas paper all over the living room, my husband spread out on the couch snoring and the overwhelming amount of dirty dishes in the sink. That was the last holiday we were together and I am beginning to believe, it will be the last holiday I ever really want to remember.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and now Easter: there are no sounds of children in my condo, there is no smell of ham or turkey wafting through my home: there are no colored eggs, purple peeps, or chocolate bunnies in sight. I woke this morning, wanting to attend the sunrise service, but simply could not muster the energy to drive there alone, sing alone and celebrate alone. I knew it would only make me cry.

I joined a web based divorce support group that sends daily divorce care emails. In the email I receieved today, the topic was loneliness and isolation. The email encouraged you to force yourself out your front door, join in some public activity and fight your way through the loneliness. Honestly, I don’t have the strength. More than anything, I want to be driving to church in my easter green dress, hearing my kids whine about being up so early. I want to return home, rush to change, make sure all the food is warmed and the table set. I want to watch my sons tear into the ham like they are starving, fight my daughter for the last boiled egg and feel upset when everyone is too full to eat the dessert I spent two hours making.

My heart misses those days! I don’t think they will ever be the same!

Tis the season to be blah

Thanksgiving behind me, I began to look forward to the promise of a New Year and the hopes for healing and peace in my heart.

The sickness from Thanksgiving lingered for a few weeks, but life returned to normal. Work had become really busy, it was time for all the company holiday parties. I was scheduled to work six nights a week, every week, until New Year: my financial future was looking good, every party on those books had $$ signs shining through the pages. As the first of the parties began, it was to my disappointment, that my greedy boss and her daughter decided to hire a young man to help in serving food and busing tables, in lieu of having any of the wait staff help, and cut into their tip. This continued for the entire Christmas season. We would have parties scheduled for over 150 people, with an open bar and live bands. The bosses daughter was a horrid person, as time had passed, her true colors began to show themselves and this woman simply, was a monster. She was the type of person who everything was about her. If you cut your finger, she had cut hers worse when she was 7: if you were heartbroken, her life was horrid because her husband did not give her enough attention, etc. She was overweight, lazy, u un-compassionate and had not a bit of couth anywhere in her body. The nights the Christmas parties were booked, she would have the bus boy serve all the food and alcohol, as she sat in the back of the kitchen playing on Facebook. I would wait the tables that came in for the restaurant, unless a known big tipper came into the front door, and then her mom would wait the table for her and slip her the tip.By the end of the night, she was walking out with several hundred dollars, after paying the bus boy an hourly minimum wage and rubbing it in my face that she was making bank. Finances were not well and none of this was helping my mentality. Since I had left the first restaurant at the end of June, I had placed over 100 applications for “real” jobs, finally throwing in the white towel, I had decided to take a break for the month of December, regroup and begin again in January. Of course, I was depending on making enough money to place into my savings through the holidays, now everything just seemed out of sorts again.

The closer Christmas came, the more anxious I began to feel. Thanksgiving was horrid, the sadness and loneliness had almost consumed me for that short four day weekend. Christmas was due to be a 6 day weekend. No invites were offered my way for Christmas. Though I had not acted upon any of them, I had been invited to maybe 6 different homes for Thanksgiving, but nothing was looming for Christmas.

When my ex had placed my items into our storage unit over the summer, he had warmly and nicely packed every single Christmas decoration that referenced our past and had kept every single Christmas decoration that had not. I found this out after deciding one Sunday to at least decorate my balcony and condo door. Over the years I had acquired several nice door wreaths from Macy’s and Dillard’s and just last year I had purchased a few boxes of icicle lights and four crab pot Christmas trees. (only sold in our area for the time being, eastern NC) I had driving to the storage room, almost excitedly packed my car with the two storage containers and the 4 crab pot tress and drove home humming Christmas carols. Maybe this was just what I needed to put me in the mood! Upon opening the two storage containers and barely leafing through I quickly figured out the motivation to be so “willing” to set certain items free. The first container was full of CHristmas decorations, the decorations I did not want to see. Or first Christmas, our first home, our wedding cake topper, etc. The second storage container was filled with our entire families stocking, FAMILY stocking holders, even our puppy dogs stocking and Christmas decoration. (the puppy dog he still has). I threw the lid on the storage containers, through them in the back of what used to be my daughters room and sat in the dark, crying for hours. There were no outside lights, no door wreaths, no tree skirts, or tinsel: he had purposely gone through every single decoration and pushed them out of his home, heart and memory. I really did not know what to feel.

The days moved on, finally, I pulled up my boot strings and stopped into Wal Greens to buy some lights for my balcony and a tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree for the condo. That was the extent of my Christmas decorations.

Two weeks before Christmas, Bryan and I still doing our thing, he told me his daughter would be down for a week before Christmas, he was going to his brother’s house on the opposite end of NC for the holidays and would not be home until after New Years. My only hope of entertainment now gone, my heart-felt sad, I have never felt so alone.

My youngest son, who is stationed in Macon GA phoned my just before Christmas. He was scheduled to have a ten-day holiday but didn’t want to spend the money to come home and was worried about being so far away from base for so long. A light bulb in my brain snapped on, my one mainstay financially has been my Marriot rewards card, I had enough points for a three day free hotel stay, why not drive to Atlanta and see my son for Christmas! GENUISE! I shared the idea with my son and he was excited at the thought. Immediatly, I hung up the phone, booked a hotel room, and that was it, Christmas was now back on. I phoned my oldest son and daughter to let them know I would be away for Christmas but back right after: they could have cared less. My oldest son even gave me a “Huh?! Ummm ok, why are you telling me this!”

I worked Saturday night, excitedly came home to pack and leave on Sunday morning. It was going to be an eight hour drive, but well worth it to make son happy for the holidays. All my life, I have always gotten great pleasure at making my kids smile. The entire nine-hour drive, visions of sugar plums, smiles from my son, dinners together, walks through the park amid all the Christmas lights and maybe even a nice Christmas lunch dance through my head.

I have to explain one thing to you before I go ahead with my story. My youngest son is ADD and suffers from EXTREME middle child syndrome.I had all hopes when he joined the Air Force, they would break these issues, but I think they have actually became worse. On the way down, I texted my son when I was half way there. His home base is only an hour from Atlanta so I had told him to give me three hours and then begin his journey to meet me at the hotel. Did he listen? No, do they ever? When I arrived at the hotel, I found my son sleeping in his truck, in the hotel parking lot, with a tow truck backing in beside home to tow him away. He had left Macon at 12:30 and had been asleep in the parking lot since 2, I arrived at 5. I had to rush inside, tell the clerk who he was, check us in, rush out and beg for forgiveness from the tow truck driver: all the while, my son is still sleeping. After the tow truck pulls out, I bang and bang and bang on my sons window, for a moment, I thought he may have been dead. He finally wakes up, clueless to the action that took place only a few moments before. I am livid. He explains that he “forgot” I told him that it would be a nine hour drive for me, rushed out to meet me, and then when he realized that I was still a ways away, he tried to check in and had an argument with the hotel clerk. (the room was booked in my name) He didn’t think to call me, he says!

We settle our vehicles in the parking garage, I open my trunk and begin to pull out my four pieces of luggage for our three-day stay. (a girl must be ready) My son walks over, grabs two bags and stands there. I ask is he going to make a second trip to get his bags. He doesn’t have any bags he answers. WHAT?!?! You have nothing, no toiletries, no change of clothes, nothing. Nope, he didn’t think he would need anything for just one day! WHAT?!?!?! One day, I told you we would be here from Sunday-Wednesday! Oh, he says! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN OHHHHHH? I think in that first ten minutes of arrival in Atlanta, I felt 100 new gray hairs blossom on top of my head!

How we made it to the room in one piece, I cannot explain, but when that door opened, and I saw that nice King bed and those beautiful shower stalls, I was in heaven. Nine hours in a vehicle, driving alone, in traffice, two days before Christmas, had not made me a happy camper. Then to arrive to that fiasco, Mama was ready for a nap, a shower and then a nice sit down dinner. My son was not having it. His ADD afire and well rested after his three hour nap in the parking lot, he was pinging all over the hotel room with franetic energy. I could not stand him at that moment and I began to realize, those visions of sugar plums, yeah, they were popping around like a little kid blowing bubbles out of a bottle.

I rushed to take a shower, rushed to dress, after all, this trip was to keep him entertained and make sure my 21 year did not spend Christmas alone. We drove over to one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta, Gordon Buersh. At least I could get a cold beer, a nice hot sandwich and watch Dallas in the division title game. Maybe that could give the relaxation I needed. There I went thinking again. My son was like a three-year old, non stop chatter, bouncing around in his booth seat, and anxious to make plans for that evening. I had found several things for us to do over the three days, his ADD was wondering why we had not done them already. He barely touched his burger and I could not enjoy my chicken salad for his constant bouncing. I gazed around. I was in Heaven, with the exception of my sons presence. Fresh ale was brewing in the window behind me, the bar was lined, I MEAN LINED, with nice looking gentleman sipping beer and watching football ALONE!, my salad was refreshing, Dallas was winning..I wondered how I could make my son disappear long enough to slip my single self up to the bar and begin a NFL conversation with this one gentleman that was catching my eye?

Again, my bubble burst, dinner was over, we walked out with 2 To Go plates and we headed to downtown Atlanta for a little ice skating in the park. The traffic was horrid, parking was expensive and the line to the skating rink was over three hours long. The rink closed at 10, it was 9. We walked through Centinnel park for maybe ten minutes and my son was out did. His excitement gone, his temper in full force, he began to whine like a three-year old. I was tired, my excitement gone, I began to whine like a four-year old and just like what normally happens when you have a whiny three and four-year old, you send them to their room for time out. A $30 dinner sitting in our hotel fridge, $20 parking lot fee, and one ill me later, we were in our room by 10 and lights out.

The next morning was Christmas Eve, there was a sad and cold cloud of rain over Atlanta and the weather channel called for it to settle in. It mimicked the coldness in my heart. My son was awake, depressed, irritated and not the person I wanted to be around at all. HAving battled the ADD the night before, it was now time to battle the middle child syndrome. My kids father was having his annual Christmas gathering at his home that day. Every year for 15 years, he has had a massive amount of people from his neighborhood come to his house, grill out, open presents, play games, etc. The kids have always loved it and that was where my oldest son and daughter would be. My youngest son felt left out. After all, the middle child never gets his way. You have to understand, when my son gets in this mind frame, it is horrible. He stomps, pouts, sighs, kicks, curses, you get the picture. The rain settled in and my plans for our Christmas Eve were shot right out of the water. The walk through the Botanical Gardens and the return trip to the ice skating rink were now off the options list. It was Christmas Eve, though we were in Atlanta we didn;t really have any options. Across the street was a huge shopping mall and one entire end was Macys. I decided to walk over and spend a few hours walking around, my intention, to get away from my son, but no he decides to follow me over. This lasted as long as ten minutes, after the 50th time of him walking ten steps behind me cursing under his breath and mumbling, I grabbed him by his ear and pulled him out the door, like I used to when he was 6. ENough was enough, this was not going to happen!

We drive to a restaurant, order lunch, and I proceeded to down four beers, just that fast too, gulp gulp. I think the waitress thought I was off my rocker….now that I think about it, I think I WAS off my rocker. By 2 p.m., we were back in our room. All I wanted was to come home, at least I would be alone, literally alone.  I feel asleep and by 4 p.m. things were at their all time low, my oldest son had texted photos to my youngest son of the crowd exchanging gifts and playing horseshoes. My youngest son was unmanageable. I called my ex husband, passed him the phone to talk to his son, and proceeded to listen to a 2 hour conversation between he and everyone else at his Dad’s party. I felt sad, lonely, and not enough. I had traveled nine hours to make this holiday a nice one for us both and all my son was focused on was what he was missing. I knew what I was missing and did not want to think about it! I stood at the window, on the ninth floor of our hotel and watched as 6 p.m. came, the stores turned out their lights, the traffic whitteled down to nothing and Christmas Eve settled in. My brain took me back to all of the Christmas Eve’s before. The ones with my first husband we spent with his parents, siblings and neighbors, opening gifts, eating lots of food and then packing the kids in their car seats to anxiously wait for Santa. The ones in my former single life where there was no father figure, I was Santa, Chef Du Jour, and entertainer all in one. We would bake cookies on Christmas Eve, make hot chocolate and my three kids and I would sit in the floor and unwrap toys and play for hours. Then there were the Christmas Eves with the ex: I would cook appetizers for us all to eat as we opened gifts and then we would drive to his brothers house for dinner and gifts there. I remember the 22 years of the kids excitement and energy over Santa. I remembered it all, this year there was none of that, and I felt sad.

My son gave me my phone back and when I turned to face him, tears streaming down my face, for one second, I saw the happiness in his eyes and I thought there may be hope for my Christmas Eve. True to the male gender, he never noticed the tears, never saw the sadness his mom was feeling: he had decided, as a gift to his Dad, he was not going to tell anyone but me….he was going home for Christmas to surprise his family, his family being his Dad and Step mom.  Just the thought of it, made him excited and happy, so much so, he was ready to leave right that minute for the nine-hour drive home. It was 8 p.m. Christmas Eve night. I talked him into waiting for the next morning, I never made mention that I had driven down just for him, I was the one who would be alone the rest of the holiday and how much it broke my heart that he didn’t notice these things. By 5 a.m. Christmas morning, he was gone. Excited and bouncing around like a happy three year old, he was gone. I ventured down stairs for a treadmill workout, informed the clerk we would not be needing the last nights stay, at my continental breakfast alone, packed my bags, and by 8 a.m., I was on the GA interstate making that long trip home. I was let down, heart-broken, and totally alone.

What felt like years but was really 7 and one half hours later, I pulled into my condo. I was achy, tired, and did not have much energy. I made it in the house, threw my bags to the side and passed out on the couch. The next morning, I woke up with the flu. Yep, you read that right. That nasty bug that is still dominating our country with fever, fatigue, aches and pains: that was my day after Christmas present. I thought I was going to die, literally, I have never been so sick in my life.

From Christmas Eve night on Monday, until Friday morning, my phone never rang, dinged or vibrated. No one called, inquired about me, or knew of my existence, not even one of my three children. At one point, my fever was 103.7, my chills were dominating and my achy body could not be still: I pictured the landlord knocking on my door in early January and entering the condo to find me cold and hard, dead for WEEKS. Headlines in the local paper

SINGLE WOMAN FOUND DEAD IN CONDO FROM FLU. AUTOPSY FINDINGS REVEAL SHE HAD BEEN DEAD FROM STARVATION AND DEHYDRATION FOR WEEKS BEFORE BEING FOUND BY MONEY HUNGRY LANDLORD WANTING RENT MONEY. Family attempting to be notified, if anyone has any knowledge of Jane Doe please phone our local Sheriffs office.

Oh the life of a single woman! By Saturday, I had survived. I was walking, more like the walking dead, but walking, talking and eating again. My kids, remembering they had a mom, decided to make a day trip down to see me that weekend. (how nice of them) They arrived around 12, the flu still lingering but ,as I stated, I was functional, we decided to ride around in my oldest sons new car and stop in at some of the local surf shops discounted summer sales. My daughter was involved in a text argument with her boyfriend, my oldest was engrossed in a text conversation with his new love pursuit and my youngest son was yet again, bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the nine-hour return drive to GA the next day: I stopped, watched them, and listened – at that moment, I realized I was not suffering from empty nest syndrome, I actually FINALLY understood why spiders eat their young! Not two hours later, boredom had settled in, the attraction of Saturday night dates and the lure of the opposite sex was too much to take, and just that fast, they were gone! That was their Christmas gift to me, not one phone call, not one gift or card, only a day trip to spend three hours ignoring me. Merry Christmas to me!

This was Santas gift to my kids this year!

This was Santas gift to my kids this year!