Last Christmas was a nightmare like you wouldn’t believe. It could have been a movie script from a crazy movie called “Christmas in the House of Horrors.” I don’t want to ever be a part of something like that again, but I don’t know how to keep my family from making Christmas something to dread – they have made a history of it, though never as bad as last year.
Last Christmas Eve my mother insisted that we all go to Midnight Mass. As usual, my father got so drunk that he couldn’t go. My mother and he got into a big fight about his drinking – he’s been drinking a lot for at least 30 years. I guess mother thought that this year would bring a miracle and he’d be sober.
After my father stormed out of the house, my brother told my mother that he was no longer Catholic and wouldn’t be going to church. He apparently decided that Christmas Eve was a good time to tell her that he was an atheist and would celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday but not a religious one. This set my mother into a meltdown. Before I knew it, she was grabbing at her heart and having a difficult time getting air. My sister called the paramedics. Apparently she wasn’t having a heart attack, just a panic attack. Still, we missed Midnight Mass. Missing church on Christmas Eve is, for my mother, a sure trip to Hell for us all.
Christmas Day, Dad started drinking at breakfast, causing Mom to be at Dad’s throat from early on. Dad, unbeknownst to us, had invited over some of his drinking buddies – from his Christmas Eve trip to the bar – for dinner. When they showed up, they were all drunk like Dad. As you can imagine, my mother was livid and said nothing, but her face was beet red and she talked through her clinched teeth, like she does when she’s ready to kill.
One of the drunken friends started to get fresh with me. I pushed him away and told him to cut it out. My dad laughed and said that he was “barking up the wrong tree” because I was nothing but a dyke. At that, my mother screamed at him to shut up and stop letting skeletons out of our closet. Of course, he didn’t shut up but he went on to say that my sister was “available.” I came unglued, told my dad off, and kicked him out of our house.
My brother left the house, my sister flew upstairs to her room, and I was left eating Christmas dinner with my mother and the rest of my father’s drunken friends.
I could have left and gone back to my apartment, but I didn’t want to leave my sister in a house filled with men like this, and a father who was willing to give her over to them. (My sister was 16 at the time and still in high school.) This year Mom is expecting us all for Christmas, like nothing ever happened – that’s our family’s M.O.
I had an idea this year to get my brother and sister together for Christmas along with a few of our friends, and not go to my parents. Both my siblings were excited about the idea and wanted to do that. My mother got upset when I told her what we were going to do. She thinks we’re “ungrateful kids.” We’re all feeling guilty about it, but we just don’t want another dreadful Christmas to live through.
I told them that I would write to you and see what you think. We’ll be waiting for your answer.
Where’s the Christmas Cheer?
A: I applaud you for coming up with another plan for Christmas, other than the horrible, dysfunctional situation that you have had to deal with for all these years. I hope you and your sibs can fight off the guilt your mother is sending your way.
The life that your parents created together is about their choices; you were victims of those choices. But you are adults now and don’t have to be a part of it anymore. It is a sign of health in you and your siblings that you have made the decision to stay away from the craziness of Christmas at your parents’ home and have chosen to create your own Christmas together with friends.
You’ve suffered enough. Enjoy!
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Though not all families are as dysfunctional as the writer’s family, most of us have difficult family members to deal with during the holidays. For strategies on how to deal, go to Dear Jody Valley/Facebook.