I imagine most young children, myself included, love the holiday season. But many of my holiday memories during my early years are centered around being shuttled from house to house on Christmas Eve/Day – as is common for many children of divorced parents. When I got old enough to drive, people gladly handed over the keys, happy to no longer play chauffer, leaving me to shuttle J3 and I from house to house and city to city.
By my early 20s I secretly began to hate Christmas. I loved being back in Detroit with my friends and family for a week or two at a time, but I increasingly dreaded the stress of the 25th of December. My favorite Christmas was the one in my late-20s where I decided to “skip” Christmas and only went to 7am church service, then slept the rest of the day, getting up around 3pm to open my gifts before going back into sleep/tv mode all night. It was the most relaxing one I’d ever had!
Then I found a mate who had his own set of feelings towards holidays and we bonded instantly, spending the Christmas evening a week before our wedding at a chill bar enjoying craft drinks. Happy to use our upcoming NYE wedding as an excuse to skip most of the traditional holiday chaos.
This year Rory and I made a late decision in October to scrap the usual holiday stuff and spend 10 days Europe – away from work, family, and crazy everyday stress! The plan was to drop the dog off in Chicago and hop on a Christmas-day flight to Amsterdam, followed by a stint in Paris and an amazing NYE Eve in Madrid. Talk about exciting!! But even though I was happy to skip all the stress, I talked constantly for the week leading up to Christmas about missing my family (whom I only see a few times a year). I even cried a few days, but I always reminded myself – “Suck it up! This trip is what you wanted!”
We drove to Chicago a couple of days early and laid low, relaxing and prepping for the fun journey ahead. On Christmas day, we were just about to have lunch before hopping on a 6pm flight to Amsterdam when the FaceTime call from my brother came around 1pm. The call no daddy’s girl ever wants to hear.
“Daddy had a heart attack!”
After my initial breakdown I went directly into work mode. Within an hour, my husband and I had made a decision and were already on I-94 headed east – him driving and me making calls to all of the hotels and airlines to see what we could do, not caring if we lost every dime of the trip. There was no way I could enjoy myself on the other side of the pond with my Dad being in limbo. Because…
In the end it’s all about family.
This year I’ve spent Christmas evening and every day since watching my father improve in rapid ways that even the medical staff deemed abnormal, seeing my little brother step up and set plans in motion like never before, and watching my seemingly ageless grandpa care for his son. My brother’s and mine significant others taking watch shifts and spending time with the visitors, giving updates and allowing us to take breaks from our 24 hours watches. And above all else, admiring my awesome stepmom and her relentless support for my dad, even after her own trauma of finding him with a stalled heart (it was cardiac arrest) and performing CPR until the paramedics showed up minutes later.
As I sit here in Detroit, getting occasional notifications on my phone for my European flight check-ins, I don’t have a single regret about missing the trip or any of the dollars we lost as a result. I’m thankful that God saw thru my selfish shield and said “uhn uhn, you will not run from this feeling you THINK you have”. I’m thankful my husband put everything aside and has been nothing short of amazing this week. I’m thankful my stepmom is a freakin superhero and saved the life of one of my best friends in the whole world.
And most of all, I’m thankful that God saw fit to give my dad another chance at life and allowed me to be present to walk this journey along with my family. It’s the ultimate Christmas gift that I will never take for granted.
Turns out, Christmas is all about love and family. And you can’t hate love. Or family. ❤️