We are still devastated, but the newness has worn off. All of the adrenaline is gone, the shock is over. Disbelief • Devastation • Despair • Depression. Follow the Bouncing Ball. Merry Christmas.
Our family always spends Christmas in Peachtree City, then travels somewhere for a family reunion. This year, we were going to Plains, which is about a 2 hour drive from Peachtree City. For efficiency, my wife and I had an idea that we would pack everything for Christmas and for the trip down to Plains. I was lying in bed thinking about shirts. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at the shirts though. Might as well have asked me to build a rocket to the moon. I couldn’t concentrate on a single outfit. I didn’t want to get out of bed to look at it. Plus I had almost no interest in going and no energy to do it even if I wanted to.
And my wife and I caught a cold.
…hey! Trouble concentrating, no energy, lost interest in fun things, headaches, muscle aches, loss of appetite, irritability, GI issues without further detail… This one has a name too! Here enters the depression phase.
But at least with a name, I feel like I can handle it. Plus, I have a 2 year old that still needs a Christmas. That got me out of bed. I went downstairs and told Sarah that we needed to recalibrate. I could get us to Peachtree City, but I could not get us to Plains. I used every. last. bit of my energy to be happy around Charlie and keep him excited. I had Charlie help me wrap presents for Grannie Annie and Papa Jeff, grandma and grandpa, and then we loaded his presents and our clothes in the car. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. As I was going up the stairs with a basket of clothes, Charlie presented me with one of his cardboard Christmas blocks with a gold bow on top of it. “Here’s a present to make you feel happy, daddy.” Sweetest boy in the world. He broke my heart into a million little pieces. I needed a minute.
We packed for Peachtree City and left that night. Christmas Eve. We got to my in-laws, put Charlie to bed, and wrapped presents until about 2:30 AM, which may shock you if you don’t know my sleep schedule that intimately. In fact, that’s just about 30 minutes past my normal bed time. I know. I know. I’m working on it. But I’m not used to being interrupted. I dozed off around 3:00 and woke up around 4:30 to a supercell sitting on top of the house. Lightning flashed. Thunder boomed right over the house. Charlie jumped out of bed screaming and literally leaped into my arms. He snuggled on my chest and went to sleep, and I really enjoyed the cuddle. But I was tired, so I put him down after the storm passed, which was around 6. (I’ll find out later that the Peachtree City airport 2 miles away recorded 8 inches of rain that night, which has no bearing on the story other than being incredible.) 6:20 I smell the awful, distinct smell of dog poop. Then as I am stirring back awake, I hear one of the the most rage-inducing sounds in the world–dog pee hitting carpet. I shot my arm out at the lamp, turned it on, and scanned the room. The dog had pooped in front of the bed, stepped in it, tracked it all over the room, then scratched the door and somehow got some on the wall. Jury was out if he walked on the throw pillows, but they got washed for good measure. I made no attempt to be quiet. Sarah, of course, shot awake amongst the commotion, saved the dog, and helped me get the carpet shampooer. I bathed the dog, then shampooed the carpet until 7:00 AM. I stood in the cul-de-sac yelling “Free Dog!” for a minute or two. First 10 meals, already paid. Time to sleep.
We pushed Christmas morning until about 10:30. Santa came and gave Charlie all the Duplo he asked Santa for. He got Duplo, trains, musical instruments, and books. He was very excited and very happy. My parents spent Christmas morning in Plains, and they drove up after lunch. In the evening of the 25th, we had Christmas at my parents house.
You know when you get a new job and you have no idea what you are doing? “When you’re designing this system for Qatar, remember it’s TEMPEST compliant.” On it. “I need you to work on the change order turning this project from general area to class 1, div 2.” You got it. “When the agency gets here, I’m going to need pixel maps and hex codes for all the assets we need for the promotion.” Have it for you in an hour. Fake it ’till you make it. That was Christmas at my house. We put on smiles for Charlie at immense effort. We ate caramel cake and talked about it for an uncomfortably unnatural length of time. We had a light display that dad picked up for $20 that we watched, silently. We talked about trees. We talked about the weather. Thank god for the weather. It was so bizarre that we talked about it for a couple of hours. Or just 20 minutes. Time was largely irrelevant, except that there was a lot of it left until Christmas would finally end. We talked about Charlie’s presents, and mom said something about “Play Sand”. I heard “Play Stan”, and knew that was wrong, but thought it would be fun to look at my iPhone and see how many songs would come up if I searched my music for Stan. I start calling them out. Achilles Last Stand, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Get Up Stand Up, I Saw Her Standing There. It was pretty fun. Got to Emimem’s Stan, past Stankonia, then landed on Mr. Saxobeat (by Alexandrea Stan). Jamie looked her up and “WOW I forgot how hot she is.” But then I landed on Dirty Laundry, by Don Henley, on his I Can’t Stand Still album. Dad said yeah, the game was getting old, so I played it. Not thinking. We were all listening to the same lyrics we’ve heard a thousand times and let the line “It’s interesting when people die. Give us Dirty Laundry.” wash over us. Nobody reacted, but the game was over when the song was. Don isn’t wrong. But we’re not ready.
Charlie got up from his nap and Sarah brought him over. Charlie was front and center of everybody’s attention, of course. He got a slide, a ride-on toy with “some assembly required”, some more Duplo, maybe a train set. I forgot. The rest of us did Christmas for tradition’s sake. I handed out the gifts and just quietly placed all of Jeremy’s gifts to the side. It was weird. I just felt like he was just in Europe or something, and he’ll come back later. Then, after we were done, Mom asked if that pile was Jeremy’s. It was. We went through it. Jamie got Jeremy’s hoodie. I really don’t remember what happened to the rest. We all just wanted it over as soon as possible. It was the first Christmas without Jeremy, obviously. But we planned on him. Next year will be our second first Christmas without Jeremy. It’s just miserable.