It’s funny.  I just got back from dropping Melissa off and my head was full of stuff I felt the need to jot down all the way home and now I’m sitting in front of this flipping computer and my mind is mush.  More than likely, the reason I felt the need to write it all down is the fact that we got a reality check tonight at Mom’s house that made me start to think about all I have to be grateful for.  I guess backing up and starting at the beginning would be the best way to go though. 

Last night, we all got together at Mom’s for dinner and the usual “family Christmas”.  I guess I’ve always just gone to family functions because it “was expected” or because “we were raised that way” or because it was “family tradition” but tonight, that all changed for me.  The usuals were there; Larry and Mandy, Justin, Taylor and Lyndsey, me and Tyler and Kaleigh, Lori and Devra (Terry was working), Michelle and Mike, and Mom and Dad.  Grandma Christy is down south with Aunt Susie and Uncle Howard but she called today to wish us all a Merry Christmas.  Oddly enough, Don and Connie chose to come this year.  It’s been several years since they quit attending family functions.  I don’t really know why and I don’t really care.  It felt oddly comfortable having them there.  Mom and I were discussing it and I told her that we shouldn’t question it really.  Life is too short.  They are family and we can always start over.  I guess I’m just big and dumb and I forget the hurts easily.  It was a nice dinner but the prime rib was taking forever to cook so we wound up opening presents before dinner.  Kaleigh made quite a haul.  Her stack almost reached the top of mom and dad’s tv set.  She was worried that she wasn’t going to get any horses.  I think every gift she got was horse related.  Tyler seemed to be missing the fact that we (Ed, myself, he and Kaleigh) weren’t there as a family unit.  I hate the fact that my decision to be on my own had to effect them as well.  He did well too though.  He got a bow, some legos, and yo-yo’s sweet yo-yo’s.  Lyndsey was the princess of the party.  Squealing in delight every time someone handed her a present.  She was overjoyed when she opened a “Tubby Tubby”.  I hate those things.  Michelle and I practiced on darned near every one present putting rat tails in their hair.  Taylor wore hers for about an hour then promptly cut it out leaving a swatch of kinky hair that stood straight up.  We wrapped it up around 10 pm and Michelle and I put the idea of midnight mass right out of our tired minds.

Santa came sometime in the night.  It might have even been sometime in the 4 am hour when an itchy Kaleigh found her way to my room to have me put Benedryl on her arms.  She swore for an eternity that she could hear reindeer hooves on the roof and the sound of the woodstove’s doors rattling.  I finally convinced her that it just might be the air moving in the ducts above my bed.  She finally curled her little self into the small of my back and drifted off to sleep.  I guess next year this time she won’t fit there quite that easily.  Tyler woke us up at 6:58 am on the dot and asked if he could empty his stocking.  The announcement made Kaleigh sit up and ask him for hers.  They were happy with the assortment of candies and glow in the dark odds and ends and horses.  They brought all of their gifts into my room on my bed and opened them.  I seem to recall wishing I could sleep just a bit longer amid the tearing of paper and the shouts of delight.  Pogo sticks and golf clubs and tvs and Barbie Riding Club software.  We headed over to mom’s not long after that and Larry and Justin and Dad and Tyler went out to “sight the boys bows in”.  I took a bunch of pictures with mom’s camera.  I snapped quite a few of Kaleigh posing with pumpkin, too.  Ed showed up around 1:30 to take the kids over to his mom’s.  Mom and I took off to go to the movies to see Patch Adams.  I bawled through the whole last half of it.  It was really good.  On the way home, we saw someone walking down the street.  It was Melissa.  Her husband had left her in town after an argument so we hugged her, loaded her up in mom’s truck and brought her home.  She told us of the argument and how she thought he was a selfish pig and it made me wonder again why people get married.  It made me sad.  We talked some more when we got back to mom’s and then the phone rang.  It was Michelle.  She told us that the Hurners were on their way home from somewhere and had been broadsided by two teenagers at the corner of East Catlett and Pleasant Grove Road.  Ron is dead, one of the daughters is dead and Holly is in a coma.  One of the other daughters is in the hospital with abdominal injuries and the mom is in shock and asking about her dog.  Suddenly, everything is thrown wildly into perspective.  And it’s simple.  I love my kids more than anything in the world.  And I miss them right now.  I love my parents more than anything in the world.  Yup, they can be opinionated and blunt but they are caring and they love me and they would do anything to help me even though dad makes it seem like they wouldn’t some times.  My life would be so empty without them.  I love my brother and my sister more than anything in the world.  Lord knows Larry can be hard and a bit easy to dislike sometimes and Michelle has a temper to beat them all but both of them would stand up til death for what they believe in and they believe in me.  My life would be so empty without them and their loved ones.  And I love my friends more than anything in the world.  Man oh man what a hole is left in your life when one is gone.  You can always have more friends but you can never ever replace them. 

So, all the way home from Melissa’s, I’m thinking to myself.  I’m so lucky.  Man, am I lucky.  I have my children, I have my parents, I have my brother and sister and I have my friends.  My life is very full. 

 And this time.....Christmas really means something.


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