Rough holidays and reaching out
Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020 - 12:14 pm.

My cousin passed away early Monday morning. I could not believe it but also, it didn't surprise me. I had braced myself for that since I'd learned he was in the hospital, two days ago. It broke my heart that the last mental images I got were of him lying in a hospital bed, alone, sad and scared, asking that we pray for him. It took me a few days to convince myself that he isn't suffering anymore.

I called my dad looking for consolation when the news broke, it was like 7 am his time. He picked up the phone in tears, and just told me to call my cousin's parents* and that he couldn't deal with the blow. We hung up. Fair, he's terrible at dealing with emotions and he'd just lost a nephew. On the other hand, I was hurt and screaming inside I'M YOUR FUCKING CHILD AND I JUST LOST MY COUSIN, COMFORT ME!

(*Why on Earth would I call my aunt and uncle, dad? They were dealing with their son's funeral arrangements, Jesus. The funeral happened just like 10 hours later with the sole presence of my cousin's parents, and his younger brother and sister).

I spent Monday in a haze, didn't get much work done. I haven't seen my cousin in years, but we grew up together and he and his two younger siblings are part of my fun childhood memories. These cousins were the only ones (out of the hundreds I have) who were around my age, so at times they felt like siblings to me. I felt constipated in my emotions, I couldn't bring myself to cry.

This cousin on my dad's side died on the 21st. The 23rd was the 5th anniversary of Andrew's brother passing away; Andrew's parents live in a small town and he went to visit them. The 25th, yesterday, is/was the birthday of my other cousin, on my mom's side, who also passed away from Covid-19 in July.

Man, these holidays have been rough.

From Monday to Wednesday, I felt so numb and isolated. I was in pain over my family, over the brutality of losing a sibling, a nephew, or your own child, and terrified of the possibility of ever having to experience any of that. I had no words for my family so I couldn't reach out much. Still, I dropped a line to my uncle and younger cousin, the little sister of my deceased cousin.

I finally pulled myself together and realized I just had to be there. Show up. For sure no "merry Christmas", no "happy holidays". Just that we're thinking of you. Those who are gone remain in our hearts. We are by your side throughout this unspeakable pain. Sending you love and hugs.

So on the 24th and the 25th, I reached out. I wrote wishing happy holidays to my closest friends and my godfather, also shaken by my cousin's parting. For my recently deceased cousin, they're holding a novena over zoom, and while these praying things do absolutely nothing for me, I'm there almost every night. The family on my mom's side scheduled a family gathering over zoom on the 24th, and I showed up for a bit to say hi. On the 25th, I wrote my two cousins, brothers to the cousin who passed away in July and whose birthday was that day. I couldn't write my aunt, his mom.

Most importantly, my own family remains intact (*knocks on wood*), and there are still many reasons to go on and be grateful for. I asked my four siblings to have a group call on the 24th to talk to my parents, and it was great to be together, even if it was through a screen. Then on the 25th I called my parents and each of my siblings individually. I've been going to bed feeling accomplished, with a warm feeling in my heart that's parts sadness, love and gratitude.

The 24th I had my dad's side novena for my cousin, my own family phone call, and then my mom's side extended family phone call. I talked to and saw more family in my little home office over the course of that night through a screen than if I'd been at home for weeks.

I was feeling very good about it all, until this morning I got a text from my dad in our family chat (my parents and siblings). It was just him unintentionally showing off his knack for cruelly picking a fight with whoever doesn't agree with him. Unfortunately, one of these fights involved my aunt, my mom's sister who lost her son. My poor mother, living with that emotionally abusive monster.

Actually, when I learned that my cousin on my dad's side died, I thought about my mom. She lost a nephew on her side too and my dad was then a cold asshole. My mom has to carry with my dad's grief and comfort him like he was uncapable of comforting her. Now they both have a sibling who's lost a child to covid-19, but he acts like he's the only one capable of emotion and everything is about him, about how wounded he is by the world.

Also, I learned through my sister that he made a horrid homophobic comment about "Grace & Frankie", a series I'd recommended. And in front of Nephew #2 who is bi but of course will never tell my parents. I know my mom would have wanted to keep watching the show but it's my dad who controls the TV. My mom is over 80 and struggles with technology, but Brother #1 got them Netflix, and a tablet just for my mom some time ago, so it's a matter of setting it up so she can watch whatever she pleases.

I'd kind of wanted to forget what an asshole my dad is. Their housekeeper is also gone for the holidays and now my mom has to do all of the housework, nevermind her weakness and the chronic pain in her back, because that deadweight of my father cannot conceive that he can do housework too, other than washing dishes. I love my father, I can't help it, but also, he's a monster, so aggressive in the most unexpected ways.

Christ. Moving on.

My girlfriend, Helen, has been an angel these days, extra loving and supportive. Also, it turns out she knew my cousin. She offered to take flowers to his grave when she went to visit her mom, who died from cancer a few years ago, but I still don't know where in the cemetery he's buried.

I know these days aren't easy for her either without her mom. She got emotional telling me about her ritual of visiting her in the cemetery, and told me she wanted to tell her about me. That was all very sweet. I think she's having good holidays, nevertheless. She's back home spending time with family and friends (but not too many friends, and she's cut ties with a few who want to party like there's no virus and even refuse to wear a mask)

My own little bubble with Andrew is the best gift. It's been just the two of us and the cats, as it's been most of this cursed year and which has made it far less cursed for us. This week we've added festive food and a bit of booze, jazzy background music, and hours of watching movies and series. We exchanged cool gifts. We've talked to each other's families (though on his side is just his mom and dad, his older sister sometimes) and comforted one another over our losses. He's my family, my home.

May you find reasons to celebrate, for those who are gone and those of us who remain. Happy holidays and stay safe.

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