DECEMBER 15, 2011 10:19AM

THE TREE IS UP

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It's a "behind" year for us.  You know, some are better than others.  Christmas always comes right after Thanksgiving, doesn't it, so no surprise but still...

Michele's 50th birthday was on the 3rd of December and the boys and I made big plans, surprises, all of which we pulled off with aplomb and so some recovery time was needed.  The days slipped away.

But the tree finally got decorated last night, the boxes of ornaments up from downstairs, the collection of Santas that sit on the table and kitchen ledge, the nativity scene in the wood manger that my Dad made.  Preston was just in from basketball practice, Cooper not really "into" it but we forged ahead and the living room looks festive.

Grandma, Michele's Mom, can't come this year and my mother is here only in memory.  It will just be the four of us as my immediate family, the ones close by, have been separating themselves from us since we arrived.  That was ten years ago so the separation is pretty much complete.  There are some contributing factors like substance abuse and mental illness.  And then there's the bright cheeriness of being raised in a large, pseudo-Irish-Catholic family.  You know, the kind where you smile through the severed, gushing artery and say "Don't worry, it's only a scratch!"

We've been through a couple of scrapes and scratches not the least of which was my oldest sister's suicide.  (Her birthday is next week, by the way.  She would be turning 67.  She died at 39.)  That was a big explosion.  For my own family, moving here to run a business with a sister, another explosion was the failure of that enterprise with her though we continued on, successfully, without her.  Sides were taken, so many words left unsaid.  Easier not to call, simpler not to visit.  Silence descends.

A couple of days ago a bag of gifts appeared on the doorstep, dropped off without notice, without an email or phonecall.  The card was in the street, probably dropped by accident, in the hurry to accomplish the task before Michele or I arrived home.  

It's that time of year.  Gifts must be given.

Merry Christmas. 

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