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What Do You Do When Your Family is Gone

I mean the holidays.

My mother is 82 and has CHF. She won't be here much longer.

My sister is retiring to Florida in 2 years. I always host Christmas. She won't be coming back north for it and I won't be asked to Florida for it.

My aunt on my father's side is dying and she is the only sibling he had. After she dies, I will never see her children again. They're all over the country. We were close as children, but after the family moved away, we didn't keep up except to exchange Christmas cards with a line or two.

When my mother dies, I will never see my cousins on her side of the family either. Same thing -- close as children, but not as adults. As a kid, we had raucous christmas parties (no food or presents, just drinks for the adults) at my mother's parents' house. We cousins loved to see the adults get drunk and tell jokes. At my father's parents' house, we had Christmas dinner and presents, a traditional Christmas.

I had lots of family. Soon, I'll have none. I don't know how I'll bear the holidays.

by Anonymousreply 4812/30/2012

I feel for you, OP. I would suggest putting some feelers out to the family members you'd like to see around the holidays next year. Maybe some are feeling the way you are and would be receptive to joining together for revelry like old times. Why not?

by Anonymousreply 112/29/2012

It happens, OP. It is not unusual. You learn to live with it.

I've learned to live with it.

Christmas doesn't need to be a big deal. It doesn't need to be a deal at all. Just do other things.

by Anonymousreply 212/29/2012

I go on a camping trip during that time. I want to be as far away from the celebration and people who are participating in the celebration as I can get. If possible I take a camping companion who feels as I do about so-called "Christmas", and with whom I have mutual sexual attraction.

by Anonymousreply 312/29/2012

Are you haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past, r2? I had about 40 or 50 family members in my hometown. Nobody lives there anymore. It's a bit dangerous and all of the landmarks are torn down. I remember walking on Main Street at Christmas and running into relatives and lots of my mother's friends who were back in town to visit their families during the holidays. They were so happy to see each other. There were a few businesses in my town with my last name, so everyone knew us. Those businesses are long gone. My parents got more than 100 Christmas cards.

I do the year-end holidays because my partner is Jewish. He insisted he had to be a father, so he adopted. Now we have a sullen teenager who insists on having christmad but conveniently disappears with his friends during preparations and remarkably turns up when food is ready and decorations are done. I'm really not close to him, nor he to me.

If it were up to me I would chuck it all and go away by myself on christmas but I don't have the money. I'm one of those long term unemployed, now unemployable. I never figured it would be like this. I planned to work all my life and never retire.

by Anonymousreply 412/29/2012

I understand how you feel. As we get older extended family drift apart. The holidays can still be a very uplifting time. Volunteer, join a church group, make friends in your area you will always find people who are in the same situation as you. if you love celebrating the christmas season you will find a way to do it

by Anonymousreply 512/29/2012

Multiply OP by about a million and I think we stumble upon a huge part of the reason our country is going to shit. Once families started becoming so separated, the country started dying.

You used to have four generations within a few blocks of each other, if not the same house. There was a constant connection and that familial group formed a strong basis for community. A sense of community leads to giving a shit about other people. That leads to learning and living empathically.

When you take away giving a shit about anyone but yourselves and lacking any empathy, you get the modern day Repug and Tea Partier and the policies that go with them.

OP being without a family for Christmas is a microcosm of our society as a whole. No real connection (no, facebook doesn't count). No community. No future.

Welcome to modern America.

by Anonymousreply 612/29/2012

Ugh, R3 responded while I was replying. Talk about a perfect example of the ultimate outcome of this lack of connection.

by Anonymousreply 712/29/2012

R3, thank you for posting. Finally someone who agrees with me that Christmas can be ignored and someone who wants to get away from the celebration and hoopla and hype!!

I know there are others, R3, like you and I, but they do not speak up enough or are often afraid to break away from tradition.

by Anonymousreply 812/29/2012


by Anonymousreply 912/29/2012

OP, you make a lot of assumptions about relations you have disappearing after your mother passes away. Sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If family ties are important to you then by all means you should pursue relations with your cousins. It might not result in a fast invite or whatever but they are your family. Put some effort into it. And no need to be so morose about it. Make a trip, pay them a visit. I hear a lot of fear and cowardice in your post. You just want people to feel sorry for you. Since that's not going to happen, best you get on with your own life and pursue relationships and connections that are important to you.

by Anonymousreply 1012/29/2012

R6, R7, are you the same poster from last year who has lived with his mother in the same house his entire life and still lives with his mother even though you are in your 40's, 50's, or 60's?

And you were bemoaning last year how the nuclear family is breaking down to justify your complete inability to ever live apart from your mother.

If that is not you, R6 and R7, you still are way too obsessed with Christmas. It's mainly a religious holiday and it doesn't need to be observed unless one wants to.

Stop saying 'ugh' to people like R3 who do not wish to observe Christmas. It is very arrogant of you.

by Anonymousreply 1112/29/2012

R5, the point is that Christmas is NOT an uplifting time for many, many people. That is what R3 is trying to tell you.

by Anonymousreply 1212/29/2012

If I could go away anywhere i wanted for Christmas, I'd go to Australia. It's summertime and it's not America. My hometown really was like Bedford Falls and I wouldn't want to be anywhere near a place like that. I'd want to be far away from my past so it wouldn't intrude on me so much.

by Anonymousreply 1312/29/2012

OP lots of people would love to be in your situation. Finally free of all the false cheer and revelry. If you are not close to your cousins and have nothing in common with them anymore but some stale memories, why bother forcing it? Get together with friends instead. Make a new "family."

by Anonymousreply 1412/29/2012

"If possible I take a camping companion who feels as I do about so-called "Christmas", and with whom I have mutual sexual attraction."

This was the part that the 'ugh' was directed at above.

I'm not religious at all and my post wasn't at all about Christmas but about society in general.

by Anonymousreply 1512/29/2012

R15, exactly, your 'ugh' directed at R3 is very arrogant and narrow.

There is nothing wrong with going camping during the holidays, and taking a companion who feels the same about Christmas which is a lack of interest in Christmas and lack of interest in celebrating Christmas.

by Anonymousreply 1612/29/2012

I am R3, and I have to live in reality, not some dream world that does not exist. It is the life that I have, and not some fantasy that I might like to have. Finding someone with whom I have mutual sexual attraction to spend a few days in my camping trailer in the woods is something that is do-able. Getting "gay-married" to some gorgeous hunk and living happily ever after in some sort of emulation of heteronormative dream couples is not do-able for me. If it makes you go "ugh", that is entirely your own personal problem. If it might assist OP, I could suggest you do what a parable in the Bible talks about. There was a man who made a great feast and bid all his friends to come and dine. They all had excuses not to come. He sent out his servant to bid all the strangers on the highways and byways to then partake of the feast which was rejected by those for whom it was prepared. If your family rejects you, and you still want to have a big Christmas feast, I advise you to just make the big feast and find brand new friends to celebrate with you.

by Anonymousreply 1712/29/2012

This is the first year I wasn't overly nostalgic about recent Christmas holidays. The pain of losing loved ones fades a bit, and I appreciate the good times for what they were.

My family is now scattered, and it's likely that the future will bring me Christmas alone. I'm OK with that.

I have memories of earlier Christmases with family that I longed to move on from. They weren't close to the DL festive horror thread, but just laden with family politics. Never again? Bliss. A relaxing day alone is preferable.

by Anonymousreply 1812/29/2012

OP, you have to make your own "family" or your own Christmas traditions. For years our large extended faily got together for all the holidays. But those command performances quickly fell by the wayside once the older generation who insisted on them was gone.

Now I have friends over for a nice gathering on Christmas Eve, and I spend a quiet holiday on Christmas Day with myself. On New Year's Eve, spending time out in a crowded bar with a lot of strangers has lost its appeal. So I'm going to a play,then a midnight supper at a friend's house.

It took several years to "settle" into these gatherings and celebrations, etc. and not always the same group of friends in certain instances, but the point is, in order to have a nice holiday, you have to work at it all year, reaching out to people and working at friendship.

by Anonymousreply 1912/29/2012

Sorry, but the idea that community and companionship and family are defined as finding someone you might be able to fuck in a camping trailer is just sad and 'ugh' worthy.

The way you originally worded it is problematic. You didn't say someone you enjoy being with or sharing time with, you said "someone with whom I share mutual sexual attraction". I mean, come on.

OP talks about losing his family connections and feeling alone in the world and staring at a future of even more alone-ness and your quick response is "yeah, well I like to go camping with potential fuck buddies!"?? And, your later defense is "oh well, that's the real world."

You shit all over every sentiment expressed in OP's post but I'm the bad guy. Okay. That's what I get for expecting any depth of thought from DL.

by Anonymousreply 2012/29/2012

For most of us, the time comes when our version of family ceases to exist. Grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles die, siblings move to Argentina, cousins end up who the hell knows where.

While I might not celebrate Christmas in a camping trailer in the woods with a fuck-buddy, the idea has its appeal. We eventually either learn to create our own holiday celebrations when we can't fall back on family traditions, or we're miserable every year when family holidays roll around.

I tend to be a misanthrope at other times of the year, but I celebrate occasions with a group of people we call our chosen family. It's a flexible group with a few core people and new members of the group added every year. We do a lot of traditional things: big feasts, nice parties. At Christmas there is a big tree, too much food, traditional music and some gift-giving. We've all said how much it helps not to be alone. It's okay to be alone by choice, but that's not easy for everyone to do for holidays.

by Anonymousreply 2112/29/2012

R21, your "chosen family" holidays sound a heck of a lot better than many (most??) regular families'. Just take a peak at the, "Let's post our worst holiday experience" threads if you need proof.

by Anonymousreply 2212/29/2012

I've posted this before in other threads. Short version, once a large family, now all gone. I attend a few season functions, then go away with jewish friends over the holiday. Sometimes we travel, sometimes stay at a local hotel/casino, sometimes I just spend time with them.

Either create holiday celebrations and share them with new friends or acquaintances or bypass the holiday as I do.

Nothing stays the same, don't brood.

by Anonymousreply 2312/29/2012

R21, you say we might be "miserable every year when family holidays roll around".

Many people are not miserable at all not participating in Christmas traditions.

We have little or no interest in the rabid, all-pervasive Christmas hype and obsession.

You need to give credit to the many people who are well-adjusted, have a healthy level of self-sufficiency, and do other things during the holidays.

And if the choice during the holidays is to read, watch MSNBC, or do whatever one finds enjoyable, it certainly is a valid choice.

by Anonymousreply 2412/29/2012

"the point is that Christmas is NOT an uplifting time for many, many people."

It's okay to ignore celebrating Christmas if you find it too much to deal with. Or, just create some personal celebration that is devoid of all the old expectations and the media-driven Home For The Holidays fake-happy-family crap.

Spend time with friends, volunteer, do something for someone else. Buy yourself a really nice gift. Take a vacation. Spend the day indulging yourself with whatever indulgences you prefer. And don't let anyone try to make you feel guilty about opting out.

by Anonymousreply 2512/29/2012

I have no parents, and I have some very distant aunts.

I spend holidays with friends, only the most cold-hearted shuts out a good friends during holidays.

by Anonymousreply 2612/29/2012

I know that most of you are familiar with that Norman Rockwell painting of the whole family getting ready to eat a big bird for a holiday.

While my holiday wasn't exactly like that, we did have pretty nice celebrations when Dad wasn't drunk off his ass and abusing Ma and us kids. As they died off one by one, including my oldest brother, holiday after holiday lost meaning to me. My Aunts and Uncles and cousins were scattered around the country by the time I was born so they were never a part of anything holiday wise. Cards were sent back and forth by all and occasionally visits were made but it was never like the family in that painting.

Slowly but surely I let holiday customs die. No decorating my place, no tree, no cookies made or bought. Mom was dead and she was the one who made it fun despite hardships along the way.

Now I send out a few cards to surviving relatives and family, but my heart isn't in it. I am asked to my brother's house every year, but it is 4 hours away and I would rather sit and wait til the holidays are done and it is the next new year. I treat the holiday like it is any other day.

It works for me.

by Anonymousreply 2712/29/2012

" Once families started becoming so separated, the country started dying. "

Oh, Mary! You sound like that terrified character in 'Angels in America' who screams "Stop! Stop moving!"

As if migration is some sort of cultural nightmare.

the real nightmare is staying in small towns or even large cities where you are not happy; specific to LGBT people. your antiquated idea of "family" dictates that everyone should stay close to their biological families to be happy.

That is pure bullshit.

Specific to the Americanization of Christmas and Thanksgiving, it's a guilt-tripping marketing scheme that makes you feel bad if you don't either send a ton of products to people you hardly know, or that if you don't surround yourself with a Norman Rockwell table full of plump healthy gluttons, then you are wrong and sad.

Fuck that. Fuck it right in the ear.

by Anonymousreply 2812/29/2012

This is the unhappiest time of the year. I have an in-law who had a young relative commit suicide last night or early this morning. I don't want anything to do with it. I don't shout from the mountaintops that I don't believe in Christmas, and just discuss it if pressed on the issue. But I don't participate. I don't exchange gifts, I don't send cards. I stay away from any place where Christmas activity is happening. If someone says "Merry Christmas" to me, I say "Thank you, and I wish you much happiness every day." I make a point of going on a short road trip where there will be few people. If I stay home, neighbors and relatives will be trying to force me into their "Christmas". I really enjoy the solitude of these trips. When I first started this in 1982, I went to Big Bend National Park on December 24th, found out that Carlsbad Caverns National Park would be open the next day, just like any other day, so I drove on up there and had the place all to myself. Just me and the few park rangers who had to work that day.

The question was "What do YOU do?" I am not saying this is good for others, I am just telling what I do.

by Anonymousreply 2912/29/2012

I'm happy to hear from people who do not feel compelled to celebrate Christmas and the Christmas season.

It's good to hear from people who can think for themselves and not mindlessly walk in lockstep and mindlessly indulge in the Christmas obsession.

by Anonymousreply 3012/29/2012

Actually, I find it a relief. No planning, no shopping, no traveling at the worst possible times. And you still have the memories.

by Anonymousreply 3112/29/2012

ITA with R28. And that Norman Rockwell painting is stupid. The artist himself very likely never had a big family dinner at the holidays either. If he did, he would have known not to paint "Ma" setting a huge bird on the table right out of the oven. Who does that? No one. You carve the bird in the kitchen and bring out two platters--one white meat and the other dark meat, plus a bowl of stuffing that you just disemboweled the bird to get at. You never do all that surgery at the table with people sitting around. Good Lord.

by Anonymousreply 3212/29/2012

Sorry, R24. I was directing my remarks to OP, not to you.

Next time, please let me know you're around so I can ignore OP and talk directly to you.

by Anonymousreply 3312/29/2012

I hate these morbid threads. This one and the "people from high school who died." Very depressing.

by Anonymousreply 3412/29/2012

The way around it is to treat the holiday just like any other day. It's a holiday based on lies and fraud perpetrated by the church, so why celebrate something like that.

As far as your relatives are concerned, you've already answered your own question. You're obviously not close with any of them anymore, so big deal if you never see them again.

As long as you have friends who care about you, who needs family you don't give a rat's ass about or they about you?

by Anonymousreply 3512/29/2012

I am headed towards this; my Mom is hanging in there, but she's 80. It could happen any time.

I doubt I'll travel so far home (different coasts) to see indifferent siblings and distant cousins once she's gone.

Maybe I'll finally get my own relationship some day and have my own Christmas with my own family.

by Anonymousreply 3612/29/2012

This year was a game changer. Family members' long held, weird, selfish eccentricities have mutated into defensiveness, pilled-up manic hostility and in some cases, now not-possible-to-ignore social and psychological problems. I cut down all contact to e-mail messages after learning I was being "gaslighted" by a family member about a matter in which I believed I was being told the truth. My mother made Christmas a fun ritual, but after she died, my dad remarried and my siblings had kids (aka toys to program to suit their egoic needs), things really changed. When my dad goes, unless they change, we'll all just part ways. I'm sick of them, their passive aggression and sullen attitude, so unattractive in adults who were basically handed much of their material benefits in life. I have spent a couple Christmases recalling the past and looking (in horror) at the present, but not this year. I deliberately spent it by myself, got high, watched movies and did a detox, a juice fast. Oddly, this year I got into the music (thanks to DL). I'm remaking Christmas in my own image, and it's working.

by Anonymousreply 3712/29/2012

I am really depressed this holiday and this thread has helped me think through that. It is not going to be the same as when you were a kid and unless you have kids it really is just meaningless and there is all this pressure to buy gifts for family whom I love dearly but have no idea how to buy for. And then I feel guilty when I don't. And when I don't send Christmas cards I feel guilty. And I get guilted at work as I should buy for all the people that work for me. It is too much. I loved Christmas and will put up the tree and I am starting not to like it. Plus my room mate has a horrible mother and brother and thus he gets really nasty around the holidays too.

I should travel but hate the airports around the holidays.

by Anonymousreply 3812/29/2012

R38, you should definitely NOT buy anything for all the people who work for you. It is completely unnecessary.

I disliked it intensely when my boss would give me a gift card and a gift card to other employees.

It's awkward and so uncalled for. And meaningless. An employee does not need a token Xmas gift from a boss.

If a large company or firm wants to give financial bonuses, that is different and welcome but in a whole different category.

by Anonymousreply 3912/29/2012

OP, R1 gave the best advice. My family is pretty much gone now and while I had a nice Christmas I am contemplating a cruise for next Christmas. At least you have the nice memories. Here's a hug.

by Anonymousreply 4012/29/2012

I had a very happy family upbringing (until I was around 20 and my brother 18, and our father went from social drinking to heavy drinking to actual alcholic. But my mother held everything togethre and we still had good Xmases.) I am single, disabled, but had some $$ to spend for Xmas this year; had a very nice time with brother and 3 nieces and their hubbies. We've always been big on gifts (started by my mother, even though we were working-class, money-wise); we still keep up this tradition, and at age 50, I got a nice haul.

NOT bragging. IN the slightest. My point: my best friend of 36 years was an only child, was fine with that; his mother was also an only child; all he has is 2nd cousins. Parents divorced when he was 1; VERY close to his grandmother.

But his mother was an alcoholic from when he was a little boy till when he was 36 when she admirably, at age 66, "took the cure." But it left its mark; he HATES with a PASSIOn birthdays and especially Xmas; he has terrible memories of his mother getting drunk and spoiling everything.

So over the years, around 40 and through now (56), increasingly hates, and hates Christmas. He lives in a suburb of San Francisco, and has made a point for years now to eithre to go (as someone mentioned upthread) Australia, or New Zealand, or London, or Costa Rica, sometimes with friends.

OR in recent years, belt-tightening: to the baths in Berkeley! And we are best friends of 36 years, yes, and could not BE different in our opinion of Xmas. But I accept his beliefs and he accepts mine. So while I don't agree with OP - for my idea of Xmas - I cheefully agree with his or any of your, rights to celebrate Xmas/Hanukah (sp?), Kwaanzaa, etc.: any way you wish.

That is all.

by Anonymousreply 4112/29/2012

My parents both passed away this year and I soon realized that they were essentially holding the family together. That aside from all the infighting over their estate had nearly convinced me to forgo the holiday altogether. Instead I tried. I spent Christmas eve with my siblings, bought gifts for each of my 11 nieces and nephews, only to have them tear the gifts open so fast I didn't get to see one even open one of my gifts and left at the end of the evening without one gift for myself, or, more importantly, even one thank you for any of the gifts I gave.

by Anonymousreply 4212/29/2012

I'm in a similar situation. My mom is 91, and in good health, but obviously can't go on forever. My only sibling died last year, and neither of us had children. So after my mother goes, my closest relatives will be one aunt and a lot of first cousins. I'm sure I'll still stay in touch with them, but I wonder if the only reason I see them now is to make sure my mother is able to see them (since she no longer drives or flies and doesn't live near any of them.)

by Anonymousreply 4312/30/2012

Your mother has Swiss francs?

by Anonymousreply 4412/30/2012

Christmas has become extremely ritualized to my mother -- so much so that there is no sense of 'fun' anymore. The tree must go up on December 17 and down on January 6; I am the only family member within 250 miles, so I must do both. The exterior of her house must be decorated on the first weekend after Thanksgiving so that her neighbors can look at her decorations. There must be stollen on Christmas morning at 9am and pickled herring at 2pm even though no one really likes either food. None of my siblings eat stollen or herring at any other time of year. But it is fucking tradition.

My first partner's family was also into Christmas, and we made the error of splitting the holidays (Year 1 with my family and Year 2 with his). Boy did that provoke the tears, screams, recriminations and resentment. Mother was so upset that I did not come home for Christmas that year that my parents re-wrote their wills eliminating me. For Christmases 3 and 4, my partner and I spent the holidays apart to appease the families.

When she is gone, I will do what I want to do for Christmas. It might involve spending time with siblings, it might mean travel overseas. But it sure as hell will not include stollen or herring.

by Anonymousreply 4512/30/2012

[quote]Mother was so upset that I did not come home for Christmas that year that my parents re-wrote their wills eliminating me.

Well, isn't that what Jesus would have done?

by Anonymousreply 4612/30/2012


by Anonymousreply 4712/30/2012
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