We didn’t think we’d be seeing Mum and Justine for Christmas last year, but thanks to J getting a consulting gig at the last hour, the boys and I squeezed on to a flight south for an early one. I was so thankful we made it. It was important to me to be in Mum’s house, with her and Justine and Mum’s family for our first Christmas without Dad; so we could help each other through it but also because I feel Dad’s presence there more than anywhere else. It’s Mum’s house now, yet still Dad’s too, and everywhere were reminders of him – his handwriting on the calendar… an ancient label on an old suitcase… his gardening gear… his ratty old ugg boots. Memories were stirred, especially of Christmas the year before; our last one all together.
1. Dad’s Den.
Xmas 2014: The boys have moved in. There’s toys all over the floor and George of the Jungle in the DVD.
Xmas 2013: Finn and Rory drinking (tea) and hanging out with their Pa -watching a James Bond movie and playing with Dad’s magnifying glass. I overheard this from the kitchen:
Finn: Pa, Why did that woman blow up?
Dad: She didn’t want to get caught by the bad guys so she decided to end it all.
HAHAHAAAAA! I had another good laugh a short while later when he dived for the remote after Finn piped up “Pa, why is he taking her clothes off?”
2. Gigi (Dad’s cat, who is not known for her sweetness of disposition.)
Xmas 2013: Dad saw the boys trying to follow Gigi for a pat and he warned them not to chase or touch her as she’d get scared and maybe hiss and/or scratch and/or bite. Then Rory came over to me with huge, worried eyes and said “Is she gonna eat me?”
Xmas 2014: She still sleeps in Dad’s den but is remarkably more tolerant of the boys (and me) than ever before. Once she even brushed up against Rory’s leg and he was thrilled to bits.
3. The Cherry Tree.
Xmas 2013: Had some kind of weird blight, as well as aphids, which Dad wouldn’t spray because there were little green birds eating them and he didnt want to gas them. Tree is about 2m tall now, several years old and we’ve never had more than a few cherries the crows didn’t steal.
No pesticides or chemicals of any kind, just the plumpest, most perfect and delicious cherries I’ve ever had in my life. We grabbed them off the tree by the handful for a week.
Then stripped the tree for Mum’s Christmas dinner dessert and still got loads.
Roars helped Oma make the pastry while his big bro was off playing with the kids next door.
4. Tackling the Garden.
Back in March Dad was chuffed to see his protea bloom for the first time.
Xmas 2013: Dad was getting the latest experimental chemo (the one his awesome doctor got him on for free!), and it was brilliant; it stopped the lung growth and he was feeling well too, as a bonus. The main mission was ripping out all the weeds that’d sprung up during our trip to Tassie... when M&D got back all the beds were thigh deep with weed, and not the fun kind.
Xmas 2014: We had time to get a good bit of work done, which was great – worked off some Christmas lunch, helped Mum out, and felt a little closer to Dad too. Justine’s planting out the front beds and her zucchinis are thriving. I had a go at emptying the compost roller bin; I never saw Dad do it, but I’m pretty sure I did it wrong; I don’t think smelly compost landing on your foot is part of the plan. Pulled shitloads of weeds and spread 5 cubic metres of bark mulch in a day and a half. Screw you, weeds!!
5. Christmas Eve.
2013: It’s 9.30pm. Finn is snoring but all I can see is a huge pair of eyes in 2 year old Rory’s bed. “Is Santa coming now?” I could see where he’d pulled the curtain away from the window so he could check outside.
Then while wrapping presents we discovered bird shit on Dad’s pitchfork – we’d hidden it behind the worm farm in the garden. Mum realised after she’d already put a ribbon on the handle, and we had a laugh, saying do we really need to clean it? We put a ribbon on there. Meanwhile, J’s turned on the heat light in the bathroom, not knowing it was busted and wouldn’t turn off again. Justine tried by pressing really hard and succeeded only in pushing the switch inside the wall. Since it was Christmas Eve we prevailed upon family to come and rescue us so the house didn’t burn down, and called one of my cousins whose husband Neil is a sparky. He is also a strapping, cheerful man with a deep booming voice… I said to him, you do realise that because you are a stranger Rory probably thinks you are Santa Claus. He thought that was awesome and promptly went “HO HO HO!” but Rory must’ve finally dropped off because he didn’t make a peep.
6. Christmas Day.
2014: Kids are stunned upon waking to discover there are presents, even though Christmas isn’t for another week! We explain that the elves knew we were here and must’ve delivered the pressies; Santa will still come on Christmas Eve. They decide this is reasonable.
2013: Kids are spoiled rotten by about a million presents – holy shit Mum! You do realise we only have one suitcase? (We ended up borrowing one of theirs to get everything home.)
Lots of hugs and kisses and ‘thank you’s to the World’s Best Grandparents.
Roast turkey with all the trimmings, long conversations around the dinner table, and then afterwards going through old photo albums for a couple of hours with Dad, hearing his stories, watching him with mum and their grandkids, feeling the love. When Dad passed away suddenly 3 months later the boys and I missed him by just 45 minutes. My Auntie Jessie and everyone else that day said how sorry they were that we didn’t get to say goodbye, but we did; that wonderful Christmas.
I hope you all had yourselves a lovely holiday, and that the new year brings you and your families love and life and all the good things.