For me, the last three or four Christmases or so have been "hit or miss", i.e., I didn't always know what I was walking into when we arrived at my parents' house. If memory serves me, last year it was me and my husband who were "on the outs" with my unpredictable mother and we spent very little time with my parents over the Christmas holiday. That meant not spending time with my sister, her long term boyfriend and his two daughters, whom I consider my nieces regardless if Jan and Ben ever get married or not.
The year before it was my sister who was "on the outs" with our mother and they (Jan, Ben and the girls) spent very little time in Appleton over the Christmas holiday.
This year it was somewhat of a toss-up. My sister hasn't really had much communication with our mom since a few weeks before Mother's Day when we were all specifically told via voice mail, "I'm done with you all and I know you're all done with me."
I admit that contact with my parents has significantly decreased since receiving that message loud and clear. When none of us (me and my siblings) went over to their house for Mother's Day (because, remember, a couple of weeks prior we were instructed that our mother was "done with us") she took this as a personal affront and left another series of angry voice messages about how we were ignoring her. This anger held over until Father's Day a month later when I called and spoke with my dad about when we should stop by to give him his Father's Day gift. During that phone call I could hear my mom yelling in the background that if we didn't see her on Mother's Day, we were NOT invited to their home for Father's Day. My very stoic father was in tears as he told me that we'll get together at some other time for Father's Day. Needless to say, this didn't do much to improve how I felt about my mom.
Despite all of this family discord, either my brother or my dad have picked up Apollo on weekdays and dropped him back off at our house so he doesn't spend his days alone while Mark and I are at work. Next to his leash I've left gifts, envelopes of photos, and Thanksgiving left-overs that my mom (my guess) wouldn't come over to receive, but we've received food in Tupperware containers in return and the containers of food we've sent over to them returned washed, cleaned and apparently appreciated, or at least eaten, in return.
This brings me to this Christmas, 2014. I was sick with a very nasty cold (likely picked up by the petri-dish kids I work with) on Monday afternoon, 12-22-14 until today, 12-26-14, when I finally stopped taking Dayquil every 4 hours and a hefty dose of NyQuil before bedtime. I missed celebrating Christmas at my Grandma Krause's house on Christmas Eve because the last thing on earth my grandma needs is any exposure to communicable diseases.
My sister, Ben and the girls arrived at my parents' house sometime today between noon and 1pm. Despite calling and texting, I wasn't given any additional information about "dropping by" today which I had planned on. However, if my sister and her family needed time to repair their relationship with our mother, I say, "Amen, Hallelujah, take all the time you need." Mark, Apollo and I are scheduled to arrive at my parents' tomorrow around 10:30am to "celebrate" Christmas and exchange gifts. As I haven't received any negative reports from Camp-Porath so far, I'm looking forward to going there tomorrow. We'll exchange gifts, take pictures, eat a lot of food and (with A LOT of hope) enjoy our time together. Time will tell.
Gratitude plays into this complicated scenario as a place where I can retreat to, remembering and honoring the true meaning of this season for me. On my Facebook page I posted the portion of the book of Mark from the New Testament that describes the birth of Jesus, which is one of my favorite Biblical passages. It reminds us that the Christ child, laying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was born in the most humble of circumstances, despite being the Savior of all Christians. His life would be one of sacrifice and forgiveness: something all of us, especially me, needs to remember at this time of year.
Can I forgive my mother for her unpredictable, "crazy" behavior? What are the benefits for me of doing so? Perhaps it's not my benefits that I should focus on, but rather the forgiveness that Jesus exhibited to all that encountered him, regardless of their "worthiness" of His forgiveness. Because, in the end, if we believe, we are all worthy of His forgiveness. For that, I am extremely grateful this year.