It’s Christmas Eve.
The tree is up. There are presents under it. The cats are playing with the baubles. The lights are up too.
Everything is the same, yet nothing is.
I didn’t wrap any presents this year, dad. No, of course I didn’t forget to wrap them, daddy! You know me. I am the reliable one, aren’t I?
I just didn't. Because, well, I couldn't wrap one for you. I did buy one, silly me. It is sitting in the cupboard.
That goofy antler hat you like seeing me in will not be on my head tomorrow either. Or the light-up Santa earrings in my ears.
It is an overused cliche, but here goes…
It doesn't feel like Christmas.
For, no matter how many presents there are and how tasty the Christmas ham is, what I want the most won’t be there.
That early morning phone call from you to wish me Merry Christmas. The phone call I have had for over two decades, without fail.
“Merry Christmas, baby girl! Have a lovely day.”
“Merry Christmas to you too dad, love you. Now please go to bed. It is really late for you.”
Our love for each other travelling through fibre optic cables, bouncing off satellites and other technical marvels, uniting us across continents.
Nothing can truly separate us. We are family. You, mum and me, our little insular family. Tight.
Did you deliberately never, ever mention the man with the scythe?
That mighty leveller who could randomly snatch one of us, any time, any day. Loosening our ‘tight,’ fragmenting us into invisible nanoparticles.
Why did we never discuss him while you were ill dad?
I can see you frown. Melodrama was never your thing.
So, I will cut to the chase.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas without that phone call from you, dad.
Yes, I have listened to saved WhatsApp messages from you many times over already. I never deleted them, you know. Your rich voice, full of wit and humour.
Oh, how we laughed together, dad.
Remember that time while watching an episode of Fawlty Towers, you laughed so much you actually couldn’t breathe? That scared me! Or the time while reading out from The Code of the Woosters, you gave yourself a stomach cramp from laughing too hard? I was too busy rolling on the floor to notice that you were in pain.
‘A pair of crazies’, mum fondly called us.
This crazy girl misses her crazy father, dad.
You know, I thought the hardest part of the nightmare was watching you gradually fade away, your breathing getting shallower as the hours dragged on. Mum, sitting helplessly by your bedside, wiping the sweat from your forehead with a damp flannel as you laboured on to get some oxygen into your badly damaged lungs.
I sat there watching all of this, from thousands of miles away, on a Zoom call, while Covid raged around the world.
“You need to monitor your mood. That kind of experience can cause PTSD.” said my doctor, looking worried.
It has been exactly ten months and four days, dad.
I have carried on; you know. I go to work, spend time with family. I read. I write.
“You have coped so well,” my colleagues tell me.
Have I coped well, dad? Can you pick up that phone just one more time and tell me it’s ok? And if you cannot do that, then can you find a way to just be here, somehow?
...it doesn’t feel like Christmas without giving you a hug, seeing you smile, and hearing you hum Jingle Bells.
Will every Christmas feel like this, dad? Is this the ‘new normal’ for me and for thousands like me who lost a loved one this year?
I know you are shaking your head at me. I hear you, dad.
“Change is the only constant and death is a form of change.” You had told me when our dog died all those years ago.
So, I will not let you down my friend, philosopher and guide.
I will embrace the new normal. Life must go on. I will get out of bed, go to work, be with my family. I will read. I will write because you loved to read my writing.
Just…that… it doesn’t feel like…
Merry Christmas Dad!
With lots of love and laughter