Each Christmas my family seems to have some sort of fight, be it big or small. It doesn’t quite feel like Christmas without one. Sometimes the fights are serious, over big decisions relatives have made. Other times they are pettier over things like who forgot to flush. And sometimes the fights are because we really want to play with that sparkly wrapping paper…
So this year I was planning on writing a witty (yeah, witty!) piece about how the spirit of Christmas is alive in our Christmas family fights. But after having Christmas celebrations with my family I feel this year I really have seen the true spirit of Christmas.
My father is the eldest of 12 children. These offspring have created 38 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. While this fact always amazes people this was his reality growing up. And while looking back now there are many happy memories and funny stories, it hasn’t always been easy for my father and his siblings. While my grandfather worked three jobs my father was often in charge of looking after his younger brothers and sisters. That is a lot of responsibility to give a ten year old.
With such a large family, or perhaps any family, there are fights, secrets and dramas. Not being that close with my extended family I often arrive at functions unknowing who isn’t speaking to who, who might pick a fight, or who just isn’t coming out of protest. Rarely being involved in any of the drama I have an almost outsiders perspective on my own family.
But despite the drama and fighting, my family will always rally when someone needs it. They are the first to call or visit when you’re sick and the last ones dancing at times of celebrations. They will always come together and share food, stories and laughter.
This Christmas has been a little different to previous years. My grandmother is very ill with Alzheimer’s and cancer. She is untreatable and has gone into palliative care. She has been made comfortable in her nursing home room. The family has been told she will die soon.
Several of dad’s siblings live overseas and interstate. This Christmas they all journeyed back to Sydney to spend Christmas with their mother for perhaps the last time. I can’t remember the last time I saw them all in one place.
And this Christmas felt different. I couldn’t sense any angst between fighting relatives, and even if there was tension they kept it to themselves. Everyone had realized Christmas was not the time to be arguing about who did the dishes last Christmas, or didn’t bring the potato salad. They all put aside their differences and supported each other for the real reason they were there. They had all come together to be with their mum in what could be her last Christmas. And who knows, with that type of spirit shown, she might still be around for next Christmas!