This reminds of last year’s Christmas (2010), which was the first time the family had to celebrate the festivities without the head of the family. He passed away in April 2010, so we all knew it would be a different celebration. My mum in particular would find extremely difficult to spend the first Christmas in 40 odd years with her husband by her side. I cannot begin to imagine the loneliness she goes through.
On Christmas Eve, when we the Danes eat Christmas dinner, the family was gathered around the table. We attempted to pretend that it was a normal evening, but we all kept looking towards the empty chair.
It was not that he was the family party animal and/or dancer, but just his presence in the corner would be enough to have a nice evening. He was always smiling, laughing or nodding off.
One of his duties, during any family dinner, was to make sure that all had enough to drink – not only alcohol, but any kind of drink – for all ages. He would pride himself with always toasting with everyone around the table, at times more frequent than we might have appreciated, which normally resulted in people asking him to calm down so we could taste the lovely dinner.
A tradition for the annual Christmas evening, is to sing psalms. It’s not that we are super religious, but it’s just a very nice tradition. While singing, we walk around the Christmas Tree, which by the way is real pine. My dad would normally pick the shortest psalm, and allow us to kick off the signing. He would either sing with a deep and almost silent tone or merely move his lips, imagining we wouldn’t notice he wasn’t singing. Not difficult to spot the slacker, when we are only 8 people!
After all the eating and singing, he would slowly glide into his favourite chair and just sit there watch us open presents and assemble the kids’ toys. All the kids would, in turn, jump on his lap and hug him. There was something about him that made kids go to him, hoping that he would jump on the floor and play with them – which he often did. He loved playing with his grand-kids.
When he was finally done playing with the kids, had finished his beer and/or wine, and his coffee, stretched his legs and fell asleep in his chair. Again, he thought he could do this ninja style, but his snoring would normally give him away. The only reason he would not fall asleep was either because the kids wouldn’t let him or that my mother would ask him (order him) to do the dishes.
So, this last Christmas was strange. Not just because my dad was missing, but also because some other unfortunate events that overshadowed and made the Christmas one to forget. No need to delve into the past.
It’s absolutely amazing how one person can create such a void. Christmas just isn’t the same without my dad. Each Christmas will be missing an important tenor and toastmaster, whether we are together with the family or if we are having our own little Christmas gathering individually.
A day doesn’t go by where I don’t think of my dad. It’s not easy to explain, but I think he’s with me all the time and that he looks over the family from above.
Hope the next Christmas will bring back some of the seasonal atmosphere.