I have chosen to stay silent as of late. I have reached moments recently that I could not describe and chose to digest them instead. I’ve looked into the quiet world left behind by Keith’s absence and am acclimating to what it means to live in it without him. He visits me in my dreams. He was with me just last night. Out in the garage, gathering up metal chairs and re-engineering them with a blow torch into some other contraption, he chatted away. I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He was in Tigger mode. He was healthy and smirking at me, that naughty glint in his eyes. He was the Keith I love doing the things I loved seeing him do. He still exists, right there in my dreams.
This last Saturday was the anniversary of his death. Day 365. No different from day 364 while day 366 came and went and here we are on day 368. The days surrounding Thanksgiving brought back the grief I have felt. The days leading up to Saturday were met with laughter and story telling and remembrance of what made Keith – - well Keith and what made us so deeply in love with each other. On Saturday, I received emails, phone calls and texts from the people who loved us to mark the day. I carried their messages with me yet I could not bring myself to return the sentiments. I have felt all of you by my side through it all. I have always felt you here, just like I have felt Keith with me.
Christmas is one short week away. Since January, I’ve been announcing that I’m canceling it. My father asked me why I didn’t care for Christmas. I had to tell him I didn’t know why. Lack of light? Stress of buying the right gift for the right person? I still went Black Friday shopping with Zach. It was something Keith and I did every year. He’d scour the ads and pick out the one thing we needed at the best price and then make a plan of attack. It was our only present to each other every year. He was able to do it last year, bound to a wheel chair, with Zach pushing our cart and me pushing Keith’s chair. He even found the old Keith spark and visited with the pharmacy staff while we stood in line. The same pharmacy that saw us every week to get the cocktail of medications filled. We became the proud owners of a new TV for our bedroom shortly after 2:00 AM Friday morning.
As day 375 draws near, I’m filled with a different kind of Christmas spirit. One I’ve never really felt before. The same crazy silver Christmas tree we had last year sits in the living room. This little tree that I bought 6 years ago as I went on Christmas strike, tired of doing all the decorating around the house is fondly called the ghetto tree. Christie took one look at it all those years ago and pronounced “that tree is so ghetto” and thus it has been called the ghetto tree every since. This year, its decked out in well earned peacock finery. That’s plenty of decorating for me. I haven’t invested in a lot of gifts to go under it either. This year, its about being with people I love, embracing all that I have in this world, remembering what a gift I had in Keith, realizing what the Grinch figured out so long ago -
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… He thought…means a little bit more.
And it does my friends. Remember that. Don’t worry about the right gift. You already have it in you. Don’t worry about the decorations. Surrounding yourself with those you love is the most festive decorations you have. The rest will follow. No one has ever been caught saying that their biggest regret was not having hung the stockings with care, that they wished they had baked one more batch of cookies, that they let themselves down for forgetting that Uncle Bob preferred red ties over blue ones – - not ever. Don’t count the days till the next holiday, the next anniversary, the next birthday. Embrace all that you have on day 001, day 365, day 789, day 1,563, day 12,385. None of us know what’s ahead of us, so let our hearts grow 10 sizes today. Right now, on this day and every day that follows.