A sand Christmas is a sad Christmas ...
This year I grieved.
''Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives ...''
''Days of our Lives'' was a popular soap opera when I was growing up. It might still be; and though I'm no TV buff, even I have to admit to the ''catchiness'' of the daily intro to the show, quoted above.
Yet despite the hook of that phrase, I never realised as a young girl the significance that individual grains of sand, and grains of time, would one day take on in my life.
Oh, if only I could reclaim the blessed ignorance of youth.
This year, as I sat in my house in this desert city on Christmas Day, the significance of the grains swirled around me mercilessly.
This is the year I watched my father's hourglass empty itself completely.
As Kiddo and I sat at home waiting for Smilin' Vic to drive home from work through the desert, I fought the waves of loneliness that engulfed me.
While I smiled on the outside and silently marvelled at Kiddo's patient resolve to wait until her father arrived home to unwrap Santa's offerings, on the inside I was disintegrating, and I felt the futility of watching the hourglass empty itself. I realised I could never turn the hourglass on its head and go back in time. I realised that my own hourglass was depleting, emptying itself, and I felt so, so alone.
I was completely thrown by how much my father's absence pervaded my presence.
The memories that descended upon me weren't peaceful or pretty. They were ugly and rotten.
I remembered the desperation of watching my Dad suffer stoically, of watching him fade despite his best efforts to shine. I relived the gut-wrenching agony of kissing him goodbye for the last time. I agonized at my sister's inability to voice the trauma she experienced at seeing him in his final, writhing, agonising, pain-filled moment.
I felt guilt at the fact that in an effort to stop him from falling and injuring himself, we'd more or less confined him to his bed - taking away his favourite chair, letting nursing staff raise the guard on his bed, letting them swap his dependable Fruit of the Loom underpants for Depends in his last week of life. These ugly memories didn't just haunt me on Christmas Day; they devoured me.
My body went through the motions of preparing the turkey, veg and stuffing for Christmas dinner. I turned on some Christmas tunes, switched on the Christmas lights, and helped Kiddo piece together the Lego Friends from her advent calendar. But I couldn't bring myself to open the curtains and let light in. I couldn't bring myself to Skype family or friends.
Personal sands of time seem to shift so slowly when you're young; draining ever so gently. But there is a point in time at which the pendulum so swiftly swings.
From that moment on, focus shifts from the sifting sand to those grains that are frozen in time at the bottom of the hourglass. All those memories, all those moments - untouchable, unattainable, unretrievable, un-reversible.
And you stand powerless as the days sift on through.
This is how I stood this year at Christmas in the Land of Sand: overcome with powerlessness.
I went through the motions of a Merry Christmas, willing myself to create memories worth remembering for the sake of Kiddo. Willing myself to be so much more than just a textbook case of Holiday Blues. Pushing myself to smile and watch childhood Holiday Specials. Urging myself to get past the blackness, and to recapture the joy that has ALWAYS come with Christmas for me.
Yet despite my best efforts, on Boxing Day in the ME I lay motionless on the couch in my PJ's, watching repeat DVR episodes of Come Dine With Me.
Smilin' Vic knows me well. I rarely watch TV. All was not right. As I ate cold pizza and sporadically drifted in and out of sleep throughout the day, he laid a plan to get us back on track with early morning pre-work walks and lots of juicing. He called me at work every day last week to make sure I was ok. He was just there.
On New Year's Day, we toasted in 2015 with great friends and sgroppino. They gave Kiddo a copy of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The tale of a lost man and a little boy stranded in a sandy land. It captured my present while transporting me back to my childhood, and I cried as I read through a few of my favourite passages. But they were happy tears, reflecting on happy times.
Later in the evening, I skyped my sister. My mom, nephews, nieces, sisters and brothers were gathered for a New Year's Day brunch in Montreal. My brother sang an old song as he strummed on his guitar. We all sang along. I was teary eyed, but I was so, so happy for that moment of 'feeling'.
And I realised that slowly, very slowly, I'm regaining the strength to extricate myself from the grips of the tainted grains of sand. I'm overcoming the powerlessness.
A few hours with friends, a few words of support from a very solid Smilin' Vic, a little prince from the past, and a Skype singalong have re-injected hope into my being.
I've abandoned myself to the fact that I will always look back ... but I'm consciously willing myself to sift through the ugly and focus on the serenity. Instead of trying to look away from the mound of sand that has gathered at the bottom of the hourglass, I am refocusing on it, thinking back to Christmases past, remembering my Dad, and snow, and real Christmas trees. And sifting through the ugly to try to remember the sweet sound of my Dad's voice singing ''Petit Papa Noel'', of the swiftness and coolness of a snowflake melting on my skin, and of the sweet aroma of a pine tree in my living room.
In my mind, I'm leaving the desert and the desolate grains of sand behind.
I'm remembering how many times my Dad told me to live the life I choose. How he never wanted me to worry about him. How he was always strong. How he selflessly put his own wishes and desires aside so I could live a plentiful life and fulfil my dreams and ambitions. And I'm reminding myself that it would make him very sad to be the cause of my disenchantment and distress.
And sitting here typing in the desert, I'm letting this year's Christmas sand sift away ...