We made it through Christmas unscathed. It was a pleasant day with the kids and their dads, and the dogs, and food, and some football. My favorite presents were a Notre Dame t-shirt (the yellow one with the "Play Like A Champion Today" sign on it) from the girlfriend and a basketball from my grandma. The day was capped by a visit to the girlfriend's ex's parents' house, where several million members of the extended family had converged. We had a late dinner. The new great-grandson was a poignant counterpoint to the great-grandfather, who spent the evening huddled and dozing in one chair or another, mostly oblivious to the activity around him. He was a brilliant man, a scientist, a world-recognized leader in his field. Now he suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia, unable to walk without assistance. He can feed himself but is utterly dependent on other people for the remaining physical needs. In his lucid moments he clearly hates the burden he has become to his wife and children.
As we drove home I conjured an alternate holiday to the single-day culmination of a month of madness that is Christmas. Something that would alleviate the pressure to be several places at once and play several roles at once in one too-short span of hours. I had started thinking about it on Christmas Eve, actually, as I lay awake waiting for Santa. I need something different, in any event. If I am to be honest with myself I must admit that Christmas has rung somewhat hollow since I renounced the Holy Church. Of course, that was also the same year my grandpa died, and his absence certainly takes a lot away as well. Without the familiar, comfortable spiritual component I grew up with, well, I'm much more aware of the empty commercialism of the season than I was before.
I need a plan. A plan for next year, some sense of purpose, a way to fill the hole that doesn't require being born again.