Last night, the husband Nick and I had his adult son Nicholas and his girlfriend Jessica over to the house for Christmas Eve. We exchanged gifts, and Nick made us a yummy dinner of pork loin, smashed potatoes, and roasted veggies which were very colorful and quite tasty. We chatted for awhile about everyday things, and then we enjoyed some Christmas homemade desserts (arrangement of cookies and treats) that our lovely neighbors had brought over to us yesterday morning. After that, we sat in our living room, and watched a film that my friend Kevin Conn had made years and years ago in New Jersey, that starred himself, along with many of his friends. (it also featured Stormy Daniels in a small but important role. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. Trust me, its worth the Google search.) The film is called: “The Unexciting Adventures of Unemployed Skeletor.” It was a labor of love at that time for my friend Kevin, who is a fellow comedian friend of mine that I met years back when both of us took our very first stand-up comedy class at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC. After that class, we became very close friends, and for years, him and his then wife Michelle, our friends John and Jessica, and me and Don would all hang out very often. We were very close. Michelle, Jessica, and John are also in this movie. This was during my many years living in NY and NJ, and when my life looked very different than it does today. This is not a good or bad thing. Its simply true.
As I sat there watching this movie with my husband Nick, and my old friend Kevin appeared on the screen in a scene with my now dead husband Don, I felt so many things. Weird, yet somehow normal things. I thought about how happy I was, and how happy Don was and how happy he looked doing that scene. He was not an actor by profession, he was in EMS – but he always got such a kick out of being involved in my actor/comedian/performer life. I remembered what a blast we all had as just a bunch of friends filming this movie. How Kevin rented out a movie theatre in NJ when it was done, and we held a premiere with concession stand and tickets and the works, and all watched the finished product together. I remembered how me and my friend John had a scene together that had maybe 3 lines in it, and how we had to do take after take on that scene because we could not stop laughing. Mostly, I remembered fondly how well I was loved, and how much those friends mean to me, and still mean to me.
And then at the same time, I looked around the room and witnessed my husband sitting in the same room with his adult son, who just a few years ago, was not a part of his life. (not my story to tell here, but how lovely that it has this happy ending.) I saw his adult son holding the hand of his lovely girlfriend Jessica, and both of them feeling comfortable and cozy in our home. I felt the simplicity and the complexity of my now husband sitting there watching my late husband on our TV screen, and me watching it with him. I felt that weighty feeling that was on me for years after Don’s death, no longer with me, and how amazing that feeling is, and how hard it was to get here, and how much work it took, and still takes sometimes. I felt the life that I had rebuilt, here in front of my eyes, feeling like family. And mostly, I knew and still know how well I am loved, and how much the people sitting around me mean to me.
In this story, The Ghosts of Christmas Past are a good thing. Integration is a good thing. We learn from the past, and we collect from the past, and we grow and change and evolve from the past. Some of the things and the people from our past dont stick around, or relationships change and alter. Others stay with us and beside us for life, changing with us and standing beside us in our own changes. Im so proud of the ways in which I have kept Don Shepherd a huge part of my life, long after his death. Im also proud of the ways I have traveled forward, and always taking him with me. He is a part of my world, and he always will be. The heart can do amazing things, and it is capable of so much.
It took me a long time to get here. There were so many years after Don’s death where I couldnt even look Christmas in the eye, and couldnt be part of it. So many years where I had to run away from it, literally. Spending my first Christmas without Don in a casino – the one place I could think of that would feel nothing like Christmas to me. Spending another Christmas seeing a movie and having breakfast with a friend in NYC, instead of going home with my family and being faced with emotions and unbearable sadness that I did not want to face, because I did not want to forever resent Christmas, my very favorite holiday and time of year.
I had to run away from Christmas for a long time, in order to be where I am today – sitting inside of it, hanging out with my Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, and being very merry and pretty mellow, in a wonderful place called Home.
Merry Christmas, friends. Spend it however you need to this year. Its all part of the crazy wild ride.