It’s amazing how easy it is to get out of the blogging habit. I’ve been out of town or away from my computer so much in the last couple of weeks that I’d almost forgot I even had a blog. I can see why Mike forced himself to adhere to a 3-a-week schedule.
While the days and weeks leading up to Christmas were horribly draining and stressful, the actual holiday itself was pretty restful. We spent three days at the house of Suzanne's sister, her husband and our niece and nephew. While Suzanne was pretty busy cooking with her sister, I got some much-needed sleep and actually had time to read a novel (Brian Keene's DEAD SEA), something I haven't done in months. I was so excited to be reading I finished the book in two days. We also did lots of eating. It seemed like as soon as we cleaned up after one meal, Suzanne and Jennifer started preparing the next one. I contributed by cleaning off the table and washing dishes after each meal. But as soon as the crumbs settled, I was back to my book.
It was fun watching people open their presents this year. Usually, buying presents is a chore. Trying to get something cool on a budget is impossible. And usually Suzanne ends up buying stuff for her family and putting my name on it because I'm terrible at figuring out what to get. But, this year, I tried to cheer myself up by getting people gifts they'd really like, budget be damned. We got Suzanne's sister an iPod. She's runs for exercise, like me, and was carting around a big CD player in a hip-bag. I used to do the same thing and, every third stride, the damned thing would skip. So getting her something cool that she could use made my day. I couldn't wait to see her face and it was worth every penny. I also had the pleasure of giving my nephew a stack of all-ages Marvel comics, including one written by Jeff Parker. He knows Todd from TELLOS but it was neat to give him another book that one of Mike's other friends worked on. I'm never sure if Ricky like's comics or if he's just humoring me but he seemed genuinely excited about getting the books this time. And we were able to track down the Optimus Prime Transformer toy he wanted on Amazon. And, finally, I went out at 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday in November to get my Father-in-Law the Season 3 DEADWOOD DVD he needed. He's too considerate to ask for it but we know how much he loves the show and we were determined he was going to have it. He just treated himself to a 65" HDTV (believe me, the man has earned it) and I'm so glad we got him the DVD to watch on it. He's been watching and rewatching the first two seasons for months.
Christmas morning, I called my parents. They spent their first Christmas alone in about 44 years and I felt terribly guilty about it. Suzanne offered to let me off the hook and spend it with them but I hated to be away from her at Christmas. Once I spoke with them on the phone, though, I regretted my choice instantly. Mom started crying, though she swore to herself she wouldn't. We cut the conversation short because we were both unable to speak. I called back that afternoon and we were both feeling much better. Mom had opened her presents and talked to Suzanne and Jennifer and my Mother-in-Law and it really perked her up. We decided we're going to visit them over the New Year's holiday and that really made her happy.
Suzanne got our nephew a Poof! foam football like the old Nerf balls they used to make before they started adding all that stupid hard plastic crap to them that makes them impossible to throw. We went out with my brother-in-law and threw the ball for about an hour. It reminded me of when Mike and I use do the same thing with our Dad. We'd stand as far apart as we could and launch the ball as hard as we were able. That wasn't far because the Nerf was so light the wind would put up too much resistance. But we'd sail it about 50 yards on a calm day, assuming we didn't hit one of the power lines stretching diagonally from the pole to the house. I can still hear the sound of it whizzing through the air. We spent many hours in our youth doing that and we'd still do it for "old time's sake" whenever we both visited Mom and Dad's house on the same weekend. Throwing the ball with my nephew on Christmas day wasn't quite the same—he's young and can't launch it like we did—but it sure brought back bittersweet memories.
I thought about Mike a lot this past week. More than I thought I would. Thanksgiving was our holiday, so I thought the worst was over. But it seemed like just about everything I did, every comment that was made, brought back some memory of Mike. Very often, I'd get an almost uncontrollable urge to call him about something, reach for my cell phone and quickly realize there was no point. Nobody would answer. As a matter of fact, we finally had his phone disconnected last week as we've at long last finished the repairs to his house. That really deflated me. Not just the fact that disconnecting the phone was one more reminder that we've lost him but the guilty realization that it was only after his death that I was able to commit his phone number to memory.
Since things have started to calm down a bit, with the holdiays almost over and the work on the house virtually complete, I've finally got time to think. The constant distractions have had a numbing effect and I've not really had time to deal emotionally with the fact that my brother is gone. In order to function, I had to shut that part of my brain off, at times visualizing myself physically pushing thoughts of Mike to one side. After a time, it got to be second nature and I've actually been worried that something was wrong with me. That I was too calm. What kind of monster adjusts to a loss like this so easily? Didn't I love my brother? Am I that insensitive? Fortunately, this week has put those fears to rest. Mike has been with me a lot, constantly in my thoughts to varying degrees. Sometimes he makes me smile. More often, though, it's more crying.
2007 has been a weird year. I've lost the best friend I've ever had but gained several really good friends because of it. Most of all, I've realized just how wonderful the friends I already had truly are. Still, despite all the terrific people we've met and all the kindnesses we've experienced in the last four months or so, Suzanne and I have decided that we're really not sorry to see 2007 coming to a close. I know it would be foolish to expect an arbitrary date to have any effect on our fortunes but I have to say I'm looking forward to 2008. If only because it's not 2007. I'm not sure you could call that optimism, but it's something.