Q. I hate Christmas. I mean, I really hate Christmas. It is all false bonhomie, buying, spending, too much drinking, uncomfortable family gatherings (for many), phony sentiment, and a general pain. I find the whole deal an imposition. Is there anything I can do to opt out?
A. You clearly suffer from an advanced case of bah humbug. Of course, you are not the only one with unkind feelings about what has moved from an intended holy birthday party to a giftapalooza accompanied by turkey, ham, and bourbon-spiked eggnog. To wit: Noel Coward’s annual greeting card always said the same thing: “Christmas is at our throats again.” And a woman I was very fond of never stopped referring to the weeks preceding Christmas as “all that ho-ho-ho crap.”
I would remind you, however, that for many it is a genuine time of reverence, good feelings, and good cheer. To directly answer your question, you might lie low during the run-up to the actual day, make a date with a bunch of atheists for Christmas Day, or take a trip. Happy New Year.
Q. From the date my sister “Helen” fell ill, in October 2011, until she died in January 2012, she had her family’s support with visits, calls, and cards — with the exception of our father and half-brother. The whole family attended her funeral — with the exception again of our father and half-brother. They offered no explanation.
Five months later, our sister “Elaine” died of natural causes. She lived in the South and was not married, so by law our father was next of kin and responsible for arrangements. He refused to allow anyone else in the family to have a say. “She’s my daughter, and I’ll take care of it,” he stated. Then he denied the family any information, with the exception of his stepson, our half-brother. My father had our sister cremated and had her ashes mailed to his stepson, who then dumped them in his backyard. We learned of this after the fact, and our father denied knowing what happened to the ashes.
Why did this happen? We suspect it was a collaborative effort between our father’s third wife (20 years his junior) and our half-brother’s wife. They are only a few years apart in age and good friends, but they’re also controlling and spiteful. There are different theories as to what they were trying to achieve and whom they were trying to hurt, but we really don’t know. Why would our father turn his back on his own flesh and blood and allow his stepson to perform such a vile and hateful act? Is there a way to get answers and closure?
A. The situation you describe sounds like the Hatfields and the McCoys — only in this case you are all Hatfields. If you don’t know now, there is little hope of finding out what’s behind your father’s actions, so accept the fact that there will be no answers. Because the sisters are gone, I suggest you and the family members with whom you remain close simply write off your father and half-brother and stop torturing yourselves. I hope this will give you the small comfort of knowing that you pulled the plug on a destructive, dysfunctional relationship.