Escaping Unscathed: Death takes a Holiday

Can one feel dread and relief at the same time? That’s a rhetorical question, I suppose, since obviously I do. I suppose I should be glad that I’ve escaped the holiday season relatively unscathed yet again. Aside from a favorite fat feline, no one I knew and loved died this holiday season, and aside from the usual mild maladies brought on by stress and the weather, etc., the [tag]holidays[/tag] were fairly stress free, from my perspective. I did drink too much on New Year’s Eve and ask someone out, which turned out to be stressful in the following days, but that’s another post for another time.

It’s been interesting to look back on my behavior the last month or so. In the past I used to deal with the holidays by making it a point to be inebriated through most of the season. Especially in the year or two following my mother’s [tag]death[/tag], when I wasn’t visiting with my father, I would most likely be partying. Keep your head down, a beer in your hand and two fingers of single malt in the other, was my holiday motto. Drink, listen to Type O-, repeat. And breathe a sigh of relief after January 19th came and went … but here in my dotage, I’ve become increasingly hangover-phobic. Fear of feeling like absolute shite all the next day more often than not overrides any lapses in excessive indulgence. In fact, this past holiday season, aside from the aforementioned New Year’s Eve, I’ve turned to video games for a mind numbing agent, rather than alcohol. A friend recently remarked on my seeming obsessiveness, but I’m not really surprised by it in retrospect; it keeps my mind from dwelling on its seasonal demons, and aside from certain anti-social behaviors (no blogging, no e-mailing, no workouts, rare appearances outside of the house, rarely returning phone calls, etc.), there are no consequences other than bleary eyes in the morning and a somewhat tighter belt.

The only thing that seems to really jolt me out of my comfortably numbing Xmas miasma of World of Warcrack (be sure to purchase the WoW expansion pack, the Burning Crackpipe! In stores now!) for any length of time seems to be prominent obituaries in the news. Not just any news relating to someone dieing – the news is always full of that, and I’m a news junkie, to be sure – but specifically an obituary in the headlines. Someone’s name followed by two dates: birth and death. I see an [tag]obituary[/tag] this time of year, and I can’t help but think of my mother and the time immediately after she died. Today it was Art [tag]Buchwald[/tag]’s obituary, just in time for the anniversary of mom’s death. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my reaction to first seeing my mother’s obituary, that handful of paragraphs, a couple hundred words at most, that made me so angry … so …. insane with despair and rage. I literally thought I was going to explode – a common enough feeling during that time – and there was no place to direct that feeling; I just had to eat it. It seemed like an insult that her life could be summed up a few ‘graphs, as if that was all it ever meant. As if that was all it was worth. …

I see an obituary today, particularly at this time of year, and I involuntarily tap into those feelings for a moment. The emotional echoes of that time reverberate still. It seems strange when I look back to that time, and realize now that I can think about mom and not weep or feel nearly overwhelmed with sadness and despair. I can see an obituary in the paper and not want to cast the entire world into the empty void of a black hole and jump in after it. And yet the essence of that feeling lingers still. …