Saturday, December 12, 2015

I'll be home for Christmas

Happy birthday, XMan.

My father would have turned 68 today, had he not passed away in Hilton Head, S.C., in 2011. Phew, man, it's been a long haul to get here, and practically anybody who has lost someone close realizes that an outpouring of memories surfaces around the holidays.

So on my father's birthday, I am writing about a few things I've discovered during my years without him. With the holiday season in full swing, I will be listening to holiday music in the background while sipping on a holiday-spiced coffee. The song that happens to be playing now figures. It's the Bing Crosby classic I'll Be Home for Christmas performed by Lady Antebellum.

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me

One of the biggest things I've learned with my father gone is that, by and large, people don't care. I dutifully press the "like" button on Facebook when friends remember their loved ones. Sometimes, I even comment. But do I really care?

It's really hard to care if you never met the person. If you happen to read this, chances are you either met the XMan and loved the guy, or you are substituting your own loved one with the XMan and applying it to your own experience. Right?

Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Another important thing I've seen is that tragedies are all around us. I used to try to quantify tragedies. "Wow, my dad's unexpected death shocked us all and hurt us, but your husband's death at 42 was..."

The numerical ranking of tragedies is simply stupid. People learn to get through their grief and learn how to live the life they want to lead, even though they face enormously difficult and painful situations. This is called life.

Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams

I loved my dad immensely, and I wouldn't have traded our relationship for anything. But I do understand that I can't live in the past. We can only live in the moment.

This year, I'm especially happy because I'm engaged to the woman I love. We had Thanksgiving together and will be with my 10-year-old daughter, Sophie, and 8-year-old daughter, Chloe, on Christmas. This will be the first Christmas since my divorce in which I will have a Christmas morning scenario in my own home with the woman I love.

I'll be home for Christmas

Aw, man, the holidays bring up so many feelings and memories that I can't help but think back to some of the great times I had with the XMan. He gave out gag gifts to extended family every year. He once carved the holiday ham topless — but with an apron. He and my mom even got my brother and me Atari in 1981!

He was da man. I miss him. Yes, I have a fantasy to have him drop in this Christmas. But with all due respect, Sir Isaac Asimov, that type of thought is science fiction.

Ah, the holidays get emotions stirring, as does this freaking remake of Bing Crosby's I'll Be Home for Christmas. Perhaps you've noticed something about Bing's classic. But if not, I must point out that the last line changes the whole song.

I used to think I'll Be Home for Christmas was a straightforward holiday tune without nuance, kind of like Jingle Bells. Someone is coming home. Yeah! Get the egg nog going. Holiday time. Yes! But, oh no, the last line changes everything.

I'll Be Home for Christmas is really a homage to Christmases past. It's a nostalgic tune with a hint of fantasy and sadness. This dude ain't coming home. At least, that's how I understand this song and its beautiful five-word final line:

If only in my dreams.