It's Coming Up on Christmas...
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on.
-Joni Mitchell, "River"
Far be it for me to indulge in self pity.
No doubt my various anonymous critics, especially a certain stalker who shall remain nameless and whom I'd long ago chosen to ignore, someone who'd named himself after the alter ego of a cartoon character from King of the Hill, would laugh at that then rush off a comment that anyone else with two neurons to rub together would know will be neither posted nor read. But it's true.
It's one thing to wallow in self pity without trying to do anything to reverse bad luck and another to simply enumerate a seemingly endless parade of misfortunes and to remark on how unjust it is to invariably visit such misfortunes, and in such large numbers, on one person who all his life just tried to play by the rules.
And it's never been in my nature to ignore things that are happening, especially in my own life. If it was, I'd be completely worthless as a blogger and as a writer.
Mrs. JP would recognize the lead image. It's the Assabet River that runs through much of central Massachusetts and when the weather was warmer we'd often take after dinner walks down Main Street along the bike trail and then stand at the guardrail and look for the local fauna such as raccoons, turtles, woodchucks and the admirably eclectic variety of birds we have.
And this is about her, a woman who in many ways is the best thing that ever happened to me. If you ever read my post from earlier this month, you'll know that it had been decided (behind my back) that Barb would be summoned to her mother's home in Vero Beach. The assumption is that this may be her mother's last Christmas and her older sister scraped together just enough money to get her down there with only a vague promise they'll have the necessary funds to send her back to me. I was put in the absurd position of putting my fiancee on a plane at TF Green airport in Warwick, Rhode Island without any guarantee of getting her back.
I've been struggling to balance her family's needs with that of my own. They'd effortlessly operated under the assumption that their needs, especially that of their matriarch, were infinitely greater than mine and ours. It's a kind of institutionalized selfishness and solipsism that always seems to be self-dealt by others yet intolerable if I ever tried it. The fact that I'm estranged from my own family seems to strengthen the assumption that every other family's needs are greater than my own. After all, I'd lived under that faux in law yoke for over 15 years.
My holidays have been completely ruined by this family crisis, a family into which I've yet to marry and likely never will unless someone finally shows some sense and gives me a decent-paying job. It's unclear at this point how many sacrifices they seem to think I owe them when, as always, all I ever tried to do was the right things by Barb and her family.
So, in nine days, I'll wake up alone on Christmas morning with nothing but a surly cat. There will be no presents under the tree because there won't be a tree. What would be the point? There will be no Christmas dinner of pork loin, no bottle of Riesling white wine, no putting up of pictures of Barb and Popeye opening their presents. There will be no Chinese dinner on New Year's Eve, a Massachusetts tradition, no watching the fireworks from one place or another on our laptops, no bubbly at the stroke of midnight, no kiss to bring in the New Year.
Once again, I'm struggling to put things in perspective. We're talking about what appears to be a terminal illness and a very poor prognosis. But it's always something, something that outranks my own troubles and needs and expectations. They'd been planning this for a week and no one, not even Barb, let on what may happen this month while we continued making our plans for the holidays.
But it's difficult to be philosophical about having your entire holidays and then some ripped out from under your feet and having less than two days to adjust to that (her sister gave me the news exactly a week ago because Barb needed a ride to the airport. It was as if she was calling a cab). And if you're reading this with a sneer on your lips then perhaps you ought to supplant Scrooge in Dickens' Christmas novella. This sort of thing shouldn't happen to anyone. Everyone, in theory, deserves the chance to have a happy holiday.
But it's not as if we don't have problems of our own. I recently shelled out over $200 to fix and make our 15 year-old car inspection-ready and I still got the sticker under certain conditions because I knew the mechanic. Even if I forgo getting presents for my boys and future daughter-in-law, we still will be short on the rent and, as stated a few days ago, I may not have a home to bring Barb back to. And if it comes to that, there's an excellent chance we'll never see each other again because I will have no choice but to tell her to stay there where it's warm and where she has shelter.
I'd rather not make that preemptive final sacrifice. And, unless something breaks between now and early January, when Barb is slated to return, we'll be back where we are now in another month.
If I was disposed to walk down the bike trail in this cold, inclement weather, as I used to do in 2009 while awaiting Barb's move from Vero Beach, and look at the harder, shallower Assabet River, maybe I'd dream of being able to skate away on it as in that Joni Mitchell song. I wish I could be with my baby for the holidays. I only have so much philosophy left in me, so many sacrifices left in the tank.
She brought one of my laptops down with her. So, if you're reading this, baby, I'm sorry for making you feel bad about my being such a failure on every conceivable front when I led you to think over three and a half years ago that things would be more stable for us. I'm sorry for making you feel guilty about my anger at having my holidays ruined and given little time to adjust to that reality (at least you have the blessings of family these days).
And I'm sorry there's a very real chance we may never see each other again. I was lucky as hell to get the place we have but when I got it, I had a small stash of money saved up and a job. I have neither now and if I lose our home that I'm fighting tooth and nail by myself to keep, there's zero chance of finding another. The way things are, I'd be lucky to find a shelter.
But whatever you do on Christmas morning, whether or not we'll speak to each other, know through this open letter that I'm thinking of you and wishing I could just skate away from all our ongoing troubles and be in your arms again where I belong. I'm trying my best to keep us alive for another month, trying my damnedest to kick start my writing career and trying hardest of all to not succumb to impotent, self-defeating self-pity. We shouldn't be separated by 1533 miles yet we are and I'm sorry to run out of altruism, good cheer and philosophy at a time when it's most needed.