Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, they say, and for me it always has been. My family is not religious, but Christmas time is full of our own traditions – little things that we’ve done since I can remember, things that I look forward to all year. This year it will be different though. My paternal grandfather, my Pop, passed away in September after a short but hard battle with cancer. He was 78 and lived a very full life, but after his diagnosis we didn’t expect him to be gone so soon – we thought we had another Christmas.
Each year we alternate between Christmas lunch or dinner at Nan and Pop’s. Pop would always be bare foot in smart shorts and a collared shirt, making his way through a bowl of prawns with a VB in his hand out on the veranda. He’d carve the pork (and the crackling would disappear in the process) and take his seat at the head of the table next to Nan, with a silly paper crown on his head from a bonbon he’d crack open with one of his nine grandkids. When I think about Christmas, it’s these memories that come up. The simple ones.
But this year he won’t be there, and I’m not sure what Christmas dinner at Nan’s will be like at all. I don’t really want to think about it, we will all miss him terribly. I had 31 Christmases with Pop and I know that makes me one of the lucky ones, but losing him has made it hit home for me that, for so many people, Christmas is not so wonderful; it’s heartbreaking. It’s a day that you’re reminded of the people that aren’t there – the ones taken too soon and the ones who had a great innings.
My mum lost her dad over 20 years ago, but every Christmas Eve lights the same candle in memory of him, and this year we’ll light a candle for Pop too. So if Christmas is really hard and not very wonderful for you, I just want to say that I feel it. I’ll be wrapping my arms around my Nan and Dad, smothering my kids in kisses and finding joy in their joy, and I’ll certainly have some prawns and a VB for Pop too – oh, and probably a lot more crackling!