Tag Archives: nostalgia

Home for Christmas

The windows were filled with the morning’s frost, and the red and green lights twinkled among the 20 year’s worth of handmade, grade school Christmas ornaments which filled our tree.  Not a creature was stirring……except my 28 year-old brother.

Well beyond the years when people begin to be jaded, Sean was still filled with Christmas Spirit, and I could always expect to be jostled awake at 5 a.m. to let me know that it was time to see the bounty which awaited us.  Or, time to wait until a somewhat reasonable hour to wake our parents.

With everyone moderately conscious, we would begin our Christmas tradition of taking turns opening gifts, my Mom telling us the story of how she got bought each one of those gifts (“I had to push a woman at Venture to get that He-Man figure.”), and my Dad cluelessly saying “You’re welcome” when we thanked him for gifts which he was obviously unaware that my mother had purchased.

Unlike my brother, I was always more than willing to sleep in late, since I had begun the process of finding hidden Christmas presents in Mid-August.  A cat and mouse between my mother and I.  She, always searching for new and unique ways to hide gifts, and me, always finding new and unique ways to locate them.  I went so far as lowering my little sister Megan into the narrow opening of a locked cabinet to retrieve gifts.  Things finally reached a tipping point when Mom hid a Nintendo NES in the home of our elderly neighbor, who then died shortly before the holidays.  My parents had to convince her next of kin that Ann was not, in fact, a big fan of Duck Hunt.

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Posing in front of the tree, and the world’s most uncomfortable orange love seat.

 

Sean had led me down the path to become North County’s most prolific Christmas gift spoiler when he fulfilled every big brother’s duty of ruining the mystery of Santa Claus.  I can still remember he and Jeff Lewis matter-of-factly letting me know that it was all a big lie as we strolled past the Electronics Department at Target.

With my world shattered, Sean and I began scouring the house for gifts.  But he never had the stomach for it.  When a previously discovered race car set was a no-show on Christmas morning, Sean caved almost immediately when our Mom simply said, “Looking for something?”  He would have never been cut out for a life of crime.

Our Mom always made Christmas special for us, and my Dad always let my Mom make Christmas special for us.  She took such joy in making us happy at Christmas, even when we didn’t make it too easy.

Like when my Dad had to hold my Mom back after I almost kicked the tree over because “Stupid Santa” brought me the Bat-Cycle instead of the Bat-Mobile, or when Sean launched a plastic Godzilla hand through a hand-painted Christmas ornament purchased on a trip to Frankenmuth,MI.

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Godzilla may have defeated Rodan, but he was no match for Eileen McMullin.

 

After, the wrapping paper had stopped flying, Sean would don whatever Generra sweatshirt or Swatch that my Mom had gotten for him and we would head to St. Martin’s for mass.  Our favorite Christmas homily remains Fr. Marty’s “Christmas is about the three F’s.  Food, family and fun.” sermon.  We really thought one of those F’s was bound to stand for Faith, but he really threw us a curveball.

Then, after a few more hours of enjoying our gifts or possibly napping, we would head to our Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary Lou’s house.  Even though I now realize that they lived maybe 30 minutes away, it seemed like it was the other side of the planet.  We would play, compare Christmas gift notes with our cousins and sit down for a fancy dinner.  Or at least my idea of fancy.  All of the plates, glasses and silverware matched!

Even though, at 43, I still don’t think I would have graduated from the kid’s table, I miss those days.  Falling asleep in the back seat on the way home as my Dad drove, and knowing that everything was right with the world.

This will be our first Christmas without Sean.  When I type those words, it still doesn’t feel real.

We all have our own families now, and we have created our own traditions, but the Original Five coming together has always been a part of that.

I take solace in the fact that the Christmas Spirit, which was so alive in Sean, lives in on in his children and all of his nieces and nephews.

I love you Sean.  You will always be home for Christmas in my heart.

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Now what am I supposed to do?

As a kid, I followed my brother Sean in everything I did.  He made up the rules to all of the games we played, I listened to the music that he liked, and I followed him to the same grade school, high school and college.

Sean had already blazed a trail in pretty much everything I did, and he was always there to show me the ropes and act as a safety net.  So, when he left home to go to college, I famously said to my Mom, “Now what am I supposed to do?”.

Three weeks ago, I lost my brother at the age of 46.  And now more than ever, I am left to ask, “Now what am I supposed to do?”.

Sean was not only my brother, but my best friend.  Even though I was three years younger than him, he never excluded me from anything.  If he was playing with his friends, they had to accept that I was going to be included.

To be honest, I can never remember fighting with my brother.  A fact that, now that I have kids of my own, boggles my mind.  I believe there was a disagreement once over me reneging on a Han Solo for Greedo action figure trade, but that is the worst I can come up with.

For me growing up, Sean was the coolest kid I knew.  He was stylish (for the 80’s), he listened to “cool” music, he had tons of friends and girls liked him.  He was everything I wasn’t.   I would never tell him that, of course, but he was the kind of guy that when we walked into someplace together I was proud to say, “I’m with him.”

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Even though I am Batman, I am most definitely the sidekick here.

So much of what I am, my likes and dislikes, were shaped alongside Sean.  We both loved movies, TV, comic books and music.  Supposedly, being a nerd about all of those things is cool now, but it was anything but cool when I was growing up.

Knowing too much about “Star Wars” or being able to talk at length about something like the British TV show “The Young Ones,” was something that I kept to myself when I was younger in order to fit in.  But with Sean, all of those things that we loved were like a secret language that only he and I knew.

We could have entire conversations in obscure movie quotes and we would be so excited to share a new song or band that we discovered.  I could hear something and immediately think, “Sean will love this.”

It is that relationship that has caused his loss to leave such a hole in my soul.  There will never come a day that I discover something new in which sharing it with Sean will not be my first thought.  Hiding just out of sight behind all of the things we loved together and all of the happy memories we shared will always be a twinge of sadness.

As we got older, and started our own families, our contact with each other became less frequent.  Life always seemed to get in the way.  So much so, that my last contact with him was barely a blip, weeks before his death.

I will forever be filled with regret for not forcing our relationship to remain strong, and for not looking after him and being the best friend that he always was to me.

Maybe the sadness and regret I feel every time I think of him will gradually turn into something new.  I don’t know.  But I will never forget him.

“What am I supposed to do now?” I have no idea.  But I will start by keeping my memories of him and the love that he showed me alive for the sake of his family, my family and me.

I love you Sean.

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