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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas

Nordhoff Cemetery, Ojai, California

When my father died, I simply couldn’t take it in.  Even though I was old enough (I thought) to accept what had happened, the situation retained a strange, unreal aspect.  My father couldn’t be dead: such an event was simply impossible.  So, I began to develop this fantasy that he was still alive.

This isn’t a process that I encouraged, nor did I ever truly believe in it.  Yet, there remained the lingering conviction that, if I remained alert, I might spot him somewhere.  Perhaps he was living another life now, using a different name.  Perhaps he wouldn’t recognize my mother and I if he saw us.  Nonetheless, he must be around, somewhere, and eventually I might find him, and get the reunion I craved.

Even in college, long after I had rationalized away this strange notion, I still dreamed that at some point, my father might whisk himself down from Heaven for one final visit.  Perhaps he would wake me up in the middle of the night (No easy task, as I’m a sound sleeper), and we could enjoy one last visit together, as I shared with him my past, my current circumstances, and my hopes for the future.

In the Bionic Woman episode, “Jaime’s Mother,” Jaime gets just such a reunion.  She awakens from a vivid dream of her mother, and over the course of the episode, she ends up at Nordhoff Cemetery, where she meets a woman who looks very much like her mother.  Earlier in the episode, she learned that during the 1950s, “when the Cold War was really hot,” her parents, both university professors, lived double lives as spies for the United States.  Now, she’s face to face with a woman who seems to know everything about her, and yearns to catch up with her.  But Jaime wonders: could this woman really be my mother?  Or is the situation too incredible to be true?

Anyone who has lost a parent, spouse, close family member or friend can understand what I went through in my youth, and Jaime’s dilemma in the episode.  We never get over the pain of losing someone dear to us; we simply learn to accept their absence.  Holidays can provoke relapses in this regard.  While our normal routines can divert our focus, when the holidays arrive each year--those special days of getting together with those who mean the most to you--the fact that those lost loved ones are no longer alive hits you all the harder.

This December, I haven’t been thinking of my father, or another close family member who died a few years back.  Instead, I’ve been thinking of a woman in my extended family.  She died earlier this year, and while she wasn’t someone I was close to--we lived too far apart for such a relationship to develop--we saw her every year, usually at Christmas.  We looked forward to seeing her, to talking with her, and to spending what time we could with her.  Now she’s gone.

The irony of all this is that life continually brings new people into our lives.  And those family and friends who grieve with you will usually try harder to help absolve your pain and focus on all that you have.  They’re right there, waiting to talk with you, to celebrate the holidays with you, to just hold you close and tight, if that’s what you need.  Still, it’s difficult to banish that sense of loss.  It’s difficult to really be present with them, when you feel so incomplete.  I wonder why our minds work like this, clinging to the ghosts of the past, instead of concentrating on the real people right before our lives.  It’s so illogical, it’s so pointless, it’s so incredibly, unarguably human.

Dragon Dave 

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