Family and Christmas

The holidays are approaching so before I continue let me wish all of you the best, however you celebrate this holiday season. I hope you find some moments of peace in a December that seems to become less and less peaceful with each passing year.

For those of you who love cats please check out the My Muse Jay page in the menu. I have added two Christmas videos from last year of my cat Jay plus a few photos of him with Santa.

During this season when we spend more time with our families, I am thinking about what family actually means to me. In The Netherlands when they talk about family they are referring to their parents and siblings. They have a separate word for when they talk about their spouse and their own children. That seems very smart to me. Because I did not have a partner or children, I suppose when I have said “family” in the past I have meant my parents and siblings. But over time, emotionally at least, the word family has become to mean something different to me. It means the people who are here for me when I need them and this consists of my friends – and Jay. Yes, Jay my cat (see My Muse Jay in the Menu!). Good friends are amazing to have because when you need them in a crisis they step up to the plate and I have the best friends anyone could ask for. They celebrate my victories and listen to me during the other times without telling me to “look on the bright side”!

But on a daily basis it is Jay that sustains me. I tell him I love him more than any other person in the world and I mean it. I can see non-cat people rolling their eyes but they don’t see it through my eyes. To me he is a person, only better much of the time! Yes, he can exhibit bad behaviour (he is a cat after all!!!) but nothing compared to what I see in humans. Jay gives me more love than anyone I have ever known. He does expect me to take care of him always (cats are really perpetual children) but he also takes care of me too in the ways he is able. Most importantly Jay is always here (and I pray for many, many years to come). He does not care what I look like, whether I am colour co-ordinated, or that parts of me are getting much older than I am comfortable with! My health has not been great lately and somehow he knows and sleeps up against my body most of the time. If I am lying down on the bed working he crawls under the sheets next to me (where he is as I type this) and occasionally reaches out his paw and puts it on my leg as though he is reminding me he is there. I do my best to walk him every day but he seems to understand on those days that I cannot do it.

I have told Jay that this will be our best Christmas ever, even better than last year’s which was the nicest of my life. Perhaps it really will be the best ever. I have almost convinced myself. Last December I was finally living in a place I felt was home. Even if I had no time to decorate more than minimally, I still had a small tree and other festive greenery. I had a dear friend who came over for an hour or two Christmas morning and then returned the next day in the afternoon to have a Christmas dinner with Jay and I. During the week leading up to Christmas I visited with the friends living here who mattered to me. It was a wonderful time and I was blissfully unaware that my life would drastically change New Year’s Eve, an evening I have never liked – and now I have one more reason.

My mother died. It all happened in the space of a few days and so I had no idea last Christmas would really be her last, nor did I have time to go back to Ontario to say goodbye to her while she lived. When I spoke to her on Christmas Day she was having trouble breathing and was supposed to return to the doctor on the 28th but, instead, that was the day she went into hospital with everyone thinking she had pneumonia (which she did but it was the least of her troubles). By the 30th she was told she had a tumour and late that day slipped into a coma and died the next evening. In the end it was a blessing as it turned out she had massive systemic cancer. My phone bill records that I spoke to her in the hospital for two minutes on the morning of the 30th. It was a short phone call; one I did not know would be our last. I told her I loved her.

Ours was a complicated relationship, one in which we both loved in such different ways that it seemed we were from separate planets. Mum would agree. Never warm and fuzzy, she loved me in the ways she was able to and in these last years I came to understand that and accept it. One of my strongest and earliest Christmas memories (and true to form, one that mum did not remember!) was when I was a few years old. Mum took me along to deliver presents to a couple of her siblings and friends. In a scene from a Christmas movie, she pulled me along on a toboggan with me holding the presents and running in to deliver them. Even though she did not remember, mum would want me to recall that memory this Christmas. I have always loved Christmas. She knew that and would want this to be my best Christmas ever. Merry Christmas Mum.

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