VI. Watching a Life Crumble.

Yesterday someone asked me if I was working on Easter. "Um, I don't know. When is Easter?" They looked shocked at my response. Apparently it's Sunday. Apparently the resurrection of their personal savior is a big deal. I thought that Easter was only about whiny children, plastic eggs, and peeps these days.

I haven't the slightest issue working holidays anymore, nor do I care about the holiday in the first place. I've been an indentured servant to the world of retail since the age of seventeen. In the early years I skipped out on family functions just for the holiday pay. Then as my career progressed it switched to working holidays out of obligation because I was salary. What an ugly word: salary. If you've been a retail salaried employee you know why.

I do love Halloween but that's an exception. As She mentioned, my costumes were professional grade, award winning extravagant ensembles. We did masterful pumpkin carving and had scary parties. I still dress up. In my 24th year She made me a Queen of Hearts costume. This year, of course nothing.

I've always loathed Thanksgiving and it's stench of roast turkey and bothersome words like pilgrim and gizzards. And with each passing year my enthusiasm for Christmas dwindles away. I'd always blamed my job for ruining the holidays. Rude customers trashing my store and verbally abusing me over a clearance sweater. Maybe not the job. That Christmas in Cincinnati, right before I moved back home, I realized that maybe it was something else. It was my Grandparents; or should I say, the lack thereof.

My Grandparents were Ozzie and Harriet as She mentioned. Ozzie and Harriet who moved south to avoid harsh winters and enjoy retired life near the beach. I lived with my Grandparents for a short time in Nokomis, FL. Although my Grandpa's health deteriorated daily due to diabetes, they still entertained. We'd have visitors stay with us that had been my Grandparents neighbors back in the sixties. I couldn't imagine what it was like to have friends for forty years yet my Grandparents held onto so many. I barely remember any details of these get-togethers but one thing is engraved in my memory. Every old friend that visited us would enter my Grandparents house with outstretched arms, kisses, and handshakes. They'd kiss me on the cheek as if they'd seen me yesterday when it fact it had been ten years. They would linger over cocktails in Gramma's gorgeous kitchen, complete with double oven and commercial stove. While catching up with each other, someone would invariably say, "Angie, you are looking beautiful as ever." My Gramma was the definition of beauty and my Grandpa was the consummate host.

When we relocated to Richmond my Grandpa's declining health brought them here as well. I was thrilled to have them close by but then my Grandpa passed away, and it seemed like a part of my Gramma went with him. By that point, Alzheimer's had begun its slow, insidious assault but we hadn't noticed. Not until one frantic phone call from my Gramma insisting someone had stolen a piece of pineapple cheesecake out of her fridge in the middle of night. Shortly after the cheesecake incident she moved in with my Aunt. We celebrated holidays and birthdays just the same but you could feel something changing. With the progression of the disease Gram became less and less a part of the functions. She no longer cooked, compulsively cleaned, or contributed to the conversation. I missed her light hearted laughter and pan roasted potatoes sprinkled with rosemary. I began to feel that I was a visitor at someone else's holiday.

My Grandparents had made the holidays special. To them it really was like a party. It was entertaining at its best. We dressed up, used the fine china, and had cocktails in Waterford and a menu to die for. A menu laden with treats only made on those special days: Ham Pie and Rack of Lamb on Easter, Onion Pie and Octopus on Christmas Eve, Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding on Christmas day. It was a collection of little things like fresh flowers and freshly pressed table linens that made any family function memorable. To me that is a holiday and one day I hope to recreate that.

As naturally would happen, my Aunts began their own traditions with their small children and the cousins closest to me in age both started families of their own. Since I did not take that path, those traditions didn't belong to me. Now during holidays it feels like I'm an outsider looking in. And worst of all, now when I see any of my Grandparent's old friends they lean in with a hushed whisper and ask, "How is Angie doing?" I don't really know. My beautiful Gramma's nearly gone and I don't know what we're celebrating. ~Braticas


  1. I definitely know what you mean about the holidays. My family left our extended family when I was 6, so I never really had any of the good family traditions or anything, and I think that's what's led me to not really caring about them.

  2. I am now realizing how common my life seems. Thanks for this.

  3. No one's life is common, you just have to know how to tell your story.