I cocked my head as my daddy explained why depression finds him at Christmastime like an unwelcome old foe. I pulled the cord of his words and wrapped it around my brain, winding again and again as I tried to understand. Some of the words found their place at once: words I had heard before, ones I could snap in like a puzzle piece. I knew my grandfather had been an alcoholic for much of daddy’s life. I knew his childhood wasn’t like mine; wasn’t anything close. But I also knew that grandfather who doted on me, his “Cricket”. He, bent and shaky from the Parkinson’s, who ate boiled peanuts while he watched football and let me have chocolate syrup over vanilla bean ice cream at ten o’clock at night. He never drank anything harder than sweet tea anymore. Wasn’t everything all right now?
What I couldn’t understand then is the way pain lodges into your pores and drips out with your sweat at the least desirable times. Decades later, hips widened and skin a bit worse for the wear, I uncoil the words and marvel at the man my daddy was. He set his heart on giving us magic and wonder, over and over again. Every Christmas of our lives was the Christmas he never had. His desire for redemption poured out red and green, but no day on the calendar could make up for what he’d lost. It was never enough, it was never perfect, and every Christmas his heart bled all over again. Who could celebrate?
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