The other half of Christmas is done now. It’s all over. The most wonderful time of the year bled out slowly yet painlessly and it was as if it never happened now. My sisters and I staged a small Anti-Geezer coup, which left my father in the awkward position of having no one to fetch the Geezer, so we all pretended none of it had happened and no one mentioned his name. We moved the meal into the dining room for once, and got away from having it on that damn picnic table my father eats off when it’s just him or one other person.
The picnic table is in a small room close to the kitchen, and it is perfect for a small group of people, if by small we’re talking two or three but we’ve had ten people jammed into that damn thing for several years now and every year there is some excuse not to move into the dining room. Family traditions are like that. You do things that might be stupid as hell but because you’ve always done them you cannot stop lest… Okay, just why are we eating off a table the size of a large book instead of in a larger room on a larger table? So this year, as long as we were throwing a coup, we decided to move the meal and then everyone could eat with both hands this year.
My little sister tells me that the Geezer Coup began earlier than I thought. My father had tried to co-opt her and her boyfriend into taking the Geezer out for lunch every Sunday but the Geezer hates being seen in public with his cane so he refuses to use it. That means it takes two people to move him around, and my sister balked at this. She also balked at going to get him Christmas for this very same reason, and my older sister told me that the Geezer has more health problems this year, and it was either going to be an all out, let’s-move-Christmas-to-the-Geezer’s-house or not do anything at all about him, and so we didn’t. He’s estranged from his own family for the same reasons my father has problems with us. That small group of self important work buddies was so tight for so long that not even family mattered and now family is all they have left to clean up after them and make sure they aren’t wandering off somewhere. My father is still in great health, but the rest of that pack is tattered and worn. None of them came to visit while we were there and maybe it was the weather, which was truly nasty, or maybe they’ve all just given up.
This is the last year anyone is going to treat my niece like an older kid rather than an adult. She’s expanding her horizons and she’s got a polite but curt manner with my father now when he patronizes her. She’s worked too hard, for too long to get where she is in life to revert back to childhood. My father is losing his last link with being some sort of father figure and he cannot hope for any more grandkids, or great grandkids. It’s over, as far as him being who he once was and it is sad to watch this. Nothing he wanted to happen this Christmas has come to past, and in his defeat, he couldn’t muster the energy to make us all miserable like he usually does when he doesn’t get his way. We decided how it was going to be and he accepted it. That has never happened before.
My father is a good person. He’s kind and generous, and he’s not mean or ugly. But he is very set in his ways and he’s never put up with anyone having an opinion in his house, unless it matched his own. When we were growing up we were not allowed to lock out bedrooms doors, and when I moved back in with him when I was looking for a house to buy, he hadn’t changed one bit. Inside the walls of his house he expects everyone and everything to be a certain way, and that is that.
The similarities between my father and me are undeniable. I like things here as simple as they can get, and I tire of other people in my house quickly. I don’t like the order, or disorder of my home to be disturbed. But the distinction is this one; I don’t expect people to visit me, and I would rather they didn’t if they are going to bring other people with them. My father wants us to visit and seems to enjoy our company. But I have never truly relaxed in that house. He doesn’t have a dog. How can a person be at ease in a place where there isn’t a dog? How can you be safe without a dog there to keep bad things away from you? My father’s cat doesn’t like me. It smells the mutts on me, and it knows that somewhere, I harbor the enemy.
There isn’t a good way to get out of Blakely and there are no shortcuts to Hickory Head. The rain is a steady but light drizzle. Twenty-seven has been widened, four laned and many of the landmarks from y youth have been eradicated. A lot of the dirt roads where I learned to drive drunk have been paved. The motel where I once spent a weekend with a young woman years ago is still there, and I still remember every second of that weekend with her. I paved the side road there back in 1992, one of my first projects, and I wonder where she is, and I wonder if she remembers that time as well. That was in December of 1984 when she and I were together last, and part of me realized that in twenty years my point of view of this December will have changed very much.