Many people go through the blues this time of year due to the weather or the fear of being alone. For many, the holidays are extremely sad and lonely time even when surrounded by friends and family. For the last few decades I have suffered from severe depression from the beginning of November until February. My friends and family have been there for me each time, but the depression still overwhelms me. It’s not always about making sure you are not alone in a room, but about finding some way to not be lonely in your heart.
Watching my younger brothers and sisters get married first, become parents and basically have entire lives away from our family, made me feel like an outcast. It wasn't easy hiding those feelings. I didn't want to bring down anyone else. Who wants to be known as the fifth wheel or the odd person at the table? My family was always really supportive of me and I remember one Christmas when my Great Aunt Mary took me aside and said it would be okay if I brought “a friend” over for the family holiday parties. I was always alone at these functions so my aunt assumed I was gay and not “out” yet. Imagine her surprise when I said, “Thanks, Aunt Mary. I’m not gay, just fat.”
Yep, I was that overweight, extremely shy, smart girl who buried herself in books and classes until I graduated with honors from veterinary school. It was much easier to hide behind those books and my weight than to admit to someone I was interested, only to have them “let me down easy.” I was good enough to be their friend, but never a lover or a wife. My heart really took a dive when I fell for a family friend. I tried to work up enough nerve to tell him one summer after I lost a hell of a lot of weight. He was always over our house for parties or just hanging around. After seeing my transformation, he told me he was proud of me for setting my mind to it. He already thought I was beautiful, but not my inner light shined for everyone to see. He was a smooth talker that one! I was head over heels in love with him and still too shy to confess.
It was our annual July 4th pool party/barbecue. Our house and yard was filled with family and friends all day. I was in major flirt mode and it seemed to be working, but I was kidding myself. The object of my affection was interested in my cousin, and I was soon forgotten. I found out later that he knew about my crush, but adored me more as a sister. That was a bitter pill to swallow for a bit, but his friendship came to mean a lot more to me over the next few years after that party, More importantly, I came to love him as a big brother too.
His name was Paul and I can still hear his bawdy laugh and see his devilish smile. He was there when my Dad’s Marine reserve unit was activated for Desert Storm. I was in veterinary school at that time and unable to get away, but Paul was there for my family seeing Dad off at the airport, promising to watch over all of us until Dad came home.
Paul was there when Dad took me back and forth to Michigan State my first year in veterinary school. Both men wore their University of Michigan sweatshirts each time driving back to “enemy” territory, aka the Michigan State campus. Sitting between the two of them for a couple of hours trying not to be embarrassed was a chore, but one I would gladly have back again.
In the wee hours of Thanksgiving 1992, a drunk driver speeding well over 100 mph took Paul away from us. I still cry thinking of that phone call from my Mom telling me he was gone. At this point I was in my clinical rotations of my senior year in vet school and could not get home for the funeral. I didn't get through the grief over losing him for a hell of a long time, and over the years the melancholy during the holidays was all the more raw without him.
I didn't think that pain could get any worse until we lost Dad on Thanksgiving Day 2005. John McInerney was my step-dad in name, but Dad to me. He was there for all of the growing pains, heartaches and joys. He was there when I graduated from vet school and moved away to Detroit to work as an emergency vet. He was there when I thought I had found the man I was going to marry and decided to give up everything in Michigan to move to the unknown…California.
He was there when that all fell apart and was ready to come out to help me move back home if I needed him. Dad was there when I decided to make it a go all alone in California for just a little longer, and he didn't make me feel like I was a failure. During that time, I met another man who I did marry. Dad was honored to give up his right to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day in order to be the one to perform our ceremony. He would joke to his coworkers that he was going to marry his daughter. That got a few tongues wagging until he told them to get their minds out of the gutter! He was performing the ceremony since the state of California allowed anyone to be an “officiant for the day” for a small fee of course!
Dad was the rock of our family, retired Marine Corps sergeant, and computer geek. He hid his pain for a bit before he had to admit that the Non-Hodgkin s Lymphoma was kicking his ass. Eighteen rounds of chemo and the cancer kept growing. The doctors promised to get him to Thanksgiving and he held them to it. Only ten months passed from the time he was diagnosed until he left us, and it’s still a bit raw.
I lost myself in all of this, buried myself in my work and refused to see what was going on around me. My marriage was over before it even started but I didn't want to end it at first. Dad married us and it seemed like it was disrespecting him to end it even though I was miserable and dying inside. I had to remember what he always told us growing up. “Do what you need to do to be happy. Don’t do what you think other want you to do. That is not your path. Follow your heart. It will never steer you wrong.”
So I did.
Now I have found quite by accident, the one my heart has been searching for all of my life, and every lifetime. He is my Muse, my life partner and the part of my heart and soul that was missing. Now the holidays are a time of joy. I've rediscovered my Wiccan faith and the happiness fills my life once again. The holidays are no longer a time where I am depressed and melancholy, but a time to remember those I've loved and lost and be thankful for the time we did have together and the lessons I've learned from them. It was Paul who showed me that true friendship never dies. They are always with you, encouraging you along the way. It was my Dad who encouraged me to follow all of my dreams wherever they may lead. Both men would've had the biggest kick out of the fact that I’m a published author of erotic romance. They would have been my biggest fans. Well, I know for a fact they are “up there” smoking a couple of Cuban cigars, sipping scotch, and smiling down on me.
Just like me, the main characters of the first two books of my Now and Forever series lost loved ones far too soon. They had to go through a lot of hell in order to believe they are worthy of love and they can be happy again. Those who've passed never leave us. They live on in our hearts and in everything we do. Even if we don't realize it, they made impressions on us that help shape how we live our own lives and ultimately lead us to our happily ever after.
|Chris Sharp /FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
This holiday season, take the time to remember those who have made lasting impressions on your lives whether they have left this world or are still with you. Light a candle or two for them at sunrise and allow it to burn until sunset. When you see that light burning bright, smile. Your loved ones are there with you now and forever.
My Dad's favorite song was "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. We played it at his wake as he requested. To this day, when I hear this song I smile through the tears. I miss him so much.
Semper fi, Dad! (and yeah, I can hear him reply...Ooorah!)