My mother invited my father over for Christmas lunch yesterday. My father accepted the invitation and we all sat down to a big steak dinner in the dining room of my childhood home.
It was the first time we have all been in the same room together since my college graduation in 1991.
And… it was a lovely meal.
Allow me to fill in some background details, so the picture becomes clearer:
My dad divorced my mom in 1988 so that he could take up with a younger, richer woman. This woman became my step mom, and then ex-step mom as of about two years ago when she divorced my dad to take up with someone younger and richer.
Anyway, ever since the divorce, my parents really haven’t had much to say to each other, obviously. Or had really any reason to see each other. They live 10 minutes apart in the same town and their paths never cross.
My mom was understandably hurt and angry, etc. and Dad had a new family. And me being fully grown now, they didn’t need to co-parent at all. So why would they ever need to communicate?
So they didn’t.
Being an only child, the holidays have always been a time of great stress. I worry myself sick while delicately scheduling my time– always trying to juggle the two sides, making sure things were always as equitable as possible. Typically Christmas meant a lot of pinballing back and forth: Christmas Eve day with dad, evening with mom for church, Christmas morning with mom, then later Christmas Day with dad.
You get the picture. And this had gone on, well, since 1988 really.
Until this year.
You see, my dad has had a pretty rough year. Not only is he divorced and alone now, but he also was diagnosed with cancer way back at the first if the year. It required pretty invasive surgery and lots of chemotherapy. He’s done with the chemo, but the surgery has left issues and he is still having a bit of a rough go of it.
I’ve been trying to get down more often for visits and his friends have been looking in on him. But still… It’s the holidays and those are always rough times to be alone, even for people that crave alone time (like yours truly). Especially when you don’t know how many holidays you have left.
Enter my mom. My wonderful, caring, fabulous, big-hearted mom.
When she found out about my Dad’s cancer, she reached out to him. She has brought him food, and been calling him periodically. She also follows up with me on how he’s doing and been totally understanding how my time sharing has shifted in his favor.
And then she invited him for dinner on Christmas Day.
Given all the history, I asked if she was sure. She just looked at me and said, “Of course I’m sure! Nobody should be alone at Christmas.”
After hugging her for a long, long time, I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom so she wouldn’t see me break down and bawl my eyes out.
I was worried that dinner may be tense, but it wasn’t. Mom hugged my dad when he arrived and wished him a merry Christmas. Dinner conversation was filled with a lot of reminiscing and storytelling and there was a considerable amount of “catching up” on the doings of each side of the family.
It was really a nice time.
After our long lunch wound down, mom packed up a little care package containing my dad’s favorite cookies (that my mom makes every year) and sent them home with him.
And when it was time for me to hit the road, I thanked mom again for inviting dad and told her what a nice gesture it was.
She kissed me and said, “What? After all this time you are just figuring out that I’m a nice person?” And we laughed.
Thank you for a wonderful Christmas, mom.