I turned 11 less than a month before and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t do anything but pretend he wasn’t there. Every day since Thanksgiving I avoided the living room, ignoring my crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas and the general love of TGIF TV shows. I kept my eyes down and my nose in a book when I walked to the bathroom and for the first time in my life, I started taking the bus home afterschool instead of to my grandparent’s, where I had spent, literally, just about every day since kindergarten.
He hadn’t spoken in nearly a month and I apparently I was having trouble dealing with it. Every one tried to be sensitive to me, not share too much of the reality of the situation, but they also didn’t keep in the dark like I was a small child. But it was so hard for my ego-centric mind to understand I was not the only one lost and confused, that the rest of the family was dealing with hospital beds and hospice. That I was not the only one losing him.
The Christmas tree that year was small and fake, and it looked ridiculously shabby. It sat on top of a wooden end table and I don’t remember the lights ever being turned on. For nearly the next decade, my grandmother continued to put that tree up, setting in year after year on the same wooden stand, until either I was grown enough not to care about the tree or she could no longer stand the constant reminder of his passing.
I can’t recall anything I received for Christmas that year, but I’d guess it was my one and only American Doll, a splurge my mother couldn’t afford, maxing out her credit card in an attempt to heal my broken heart. I don’t actually remember getting the doll, but I vividly remember the itch of the pantaloons and collar during his viewing hours the week after Christmas, the only time I wore the matching dress I had received, never wanting to put it on again, too filled with memories and wishes for miracles that never happened.