Christmas Dread

Got a fleet message on my satcom today. Quarterly safety bonuses are posting tomorrow and should be paid by Wednesday. Thank God. I was beginning to wonder. It’ll come in handy, with Christmas and all. I’m pretty much done, but wanted to get one more thing for Mama.
I’m buying gifts, but there’s no spirit. This year has kinda sucked. Christmas is just one more thing I have to deal with before I get to 2007 (when I’ll feel like I’m finally moving on). Besides, Christmas kind of intimidates me this year. This is the first Christmas it’s just me and Mama. No step-father or step-siblings. No Loretta. No Mara. How do I fill the void for all these people for Mama?
Really, the idea of Christmas makes me sad. Can’t we just skip this one? Whether or not she’ll admit it, I think Mama feels the same way. Quite often when I’m at her apartment I’ll find myself staring off into space, and I’ll look up and Mama will be doing the same thing. Losing the house was a bitter blow for both of us. For Mama, even if she had her own apartment, there was always the homestead to return to. The yard. Her flowers. All just … gone. And with me finding the locks changed, I think it’s finally sunk in that we are both irrevocably adrift. Each in our own way.
Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve spent a lot of money on Mama’s Christmas gifts this year. But I’m painfully aware that nothing I could buy for her could ever replace what I cost her spirit when I conceded defeat on the house. If I had it to do over again, I would have stayed and fought tooth and nail, no matter the cost, and even knowing there was no hope of winning. It’s bad enough for me to wander along the highways like a ghost that can find no peace. But I can see in Mama’s eyes that a part of her has been set adrift, as well. And that just tears out heart.
What Mama needs this Christmas is the good, dutiful son. And all she has is some angry spirit that snaps at her over every little thing. She deserves better than me. She deserves to be around someone who can make her laugh, make her happy, and sing Christmas carols and tell jokes. Not someone who stares quietly at a computer screen and just waits until it’s time to leave again.
Looking back, I guess I regret not giving Mama a family. She should have grandchildren tugging on her apron, begging to lick the spoon as she makes her Christmas candy and cookies. She deserves to be surrounded by a big, loving family on Christmas day, full of laughter and joy as gifts are exchanged and wrapping paper is thrown about with abandon, followed by a huge Christmas dinner where, for once, she didn’t have to do all the cooking. And every one would leave room for at least two slices of her sweet potato pies.
Mama will never know how often I wish she had given me brothers and sisters. Maybe one of them might have been normal, and she wouldn’t be stuck on Christmas sharing a mail-ordered ham and an uneasy silence with the one fucked-up son. Mama makes do. And I know she loves me very much. But she deserves better. In the silence that brings me comfort, Mama finds only silence.

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