Sunday, December 25, 2011

A New Kind of Christmas

The First Christmas Alone
Getting through the holidays without him
There’s a Marine, freshly graduated from bootcamp, behind me as I fly home for Christmas this year.  He sleeps so deeply that even the turbulence and the crying children all around don’t disturb him in the least bit.  He’s gone through so much and been so sleep deprived over the past three months, it must feel so good for him to finally be able to rest his eyes for real.  There is no way he can even imagine what things will be like from here on...
I remember flying home with Ian after he graduated from bootcamp...He was one of the few Marines from his class that refused to wear his uniform on the plane.  He claimed he was sick of it and was embarrassed any time my mom gushed on about how proud she was and how her son was now a Marine.  On the plane, I sat in the middle, my mom was in the window and my brother was in the aisle.  Like the Marine currently behind me, my brother quickly fell into a deep well-earned sleep.  I took a picture of him sleeping on the plane.  At the time, I took it because he was pretty much sleeping with his mouth wide open or his chin so deeply nestled in his chest that he looked ridiculous.  Now, that picture is such a cherished memory.  I can still remember how it felt to slip my arm around my brother’s (even though he tried to tighten up so I couldn’t slip it in there... he gave up eventually!) then rested my head against his shoulder and fell asleep myself.  I can still remember the feel of that fabric against my face.  My brother’s scent filling up my senses for the first time in three months. 
I now find myself thinking of other encounters with Ian.  I remember the day he graduated bootcamp.  I was snapping pictures left and right as they marched around.  I fell in love with California on that day with the bright sunshine and gorgeous weather.  However, it wasn’t the sunshine and the weather that really made me fall in love, it was the fact that I was there with my brother.  
The graduation seemed to take forever.  Ian’s squad first ran up in their short pt shorts and I couldn’t help but laugh.  My mom and I noticed Ian sneak a look our way and smile.  I remember that exact look and that exact boyish crack of a smile perfectly.  I was freaking out the entire run and throughout the entire graduation as they marched in perfect unison in front of us.  I cheered so loudly as my brother received his Eagle Globe and Anchor and when it was finally time for us to greet our Marines I SPRINTED down from the stands, ahead of my family and ran straight into Ian’s arms.  He’d remained dry-eyed until the moment we connected.  As I jumped into his arms and he hugged tightly I could feel his tears on my shoulders.  He hugged me so tightly and kept whispering over and over in my ear.  “I love you, sis.  I’ve missed you.  I love you, I’ve missed you... I love you.... I’ve missed you.”  Mom had to pry us apart in order to get her hug, but I can still feel my brothers tears when I close my eyes and feel his arms around me tight.  My brother was coming home with us... he was coming home.  (On a side note:  The next morning at home I woke up to him watching elmo’s world downstairs... that’s my brother!)
It’s difficult how, out of the many flights we’d flown together through our lives, I only remember two of them vividly.  His flight home from bootcamp, and his final flight. 
 It’s been so difficult these past few months as my life has been taking major turns and I don’t have my brother to tell about it all.  I want so badly to tell him about how I am now an EMT... I want to hear him say that he’s proud of me that he loves me... People keep saying that he is telling me that in my heart and that he knows, but it isn’t the same...  
Now, I’m flying over Colorado on my way home to Minnesota for the first time since the funeral.  It’s Christmas in two days and yet I refuse to believe that it’s the Holiday season.  There’s been no arguing over whose year it is to put the star on Christmas day on our ornament calendar nor arguments over which ornaments get to be hung by which one of us on the tree.  (Granted, the last time we had these arguments, they were purely for the fun of it and we were each trying to force the other to do all the work)  There will be no phone calls, no Christmas care packages, no presents for Ian this year.  It really is amazing how the greatest present every Christmas that he was deployed, the one we got the most excited over, was a phone call and the chance to hear his voice... to hear him say that he loves us.  There will be no snow balls thrown at my face every time we went outside, no being pushed in the snow bank, no cranking the heat in the Ranger together as we slip and slide around on our way to go see the family.  I miss the feeling I got simply from sitting in that truck next to him...I was home.  
People keep telling me that they don’t know who I am anymore.  That I seem to have lost myself... that I need to let go.  The thing is, I’m not holding on to anything that I’m ever going to let go of.  I will forever hold on to my brother because he will forever be a part of me.  As for me being lost... I am lost.  Not only am I lost, I’m homeless.  When I was with my brother is the only time I have ever felt at home.  Even the homeless have a home somewhere.  Your home is wherever you feel most relaxed, most like yourself... it is where you can open your heart and just trust.  Ian was my home... so with that description... yeah... I have lost myself.  I felt it shatter and fall away the day I opened that door. 
There’s no place like home for the Holidays.  I’m glad I’m flying back to MN this week.  I plan on spending the vast majority of the 25th with my home.  Freezing my butt off with him once more at the Fort Snelling Cemetery.  It will be nice to be close to my brother again... to wish him a Merry Christmas and tell him that I love him.
It’s a tear-drenched Christmas this year and as we move forward into the 2012 year, I brace myself for my first year without him... 2011 was difficult, but at least I had my brother for half of it.  2012, however, I’m on my own.


Adam Deleon said...

Thank you for posting this. Merry Christmas to you and Ian and your family. May God Bless you.

Breanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Breanne said...

Meg, I am just seeing this post now. You have such a way with words and while I will not try to claim that I 'understand' how you feel, I couldn't agree more with your description of what home really is... and I'm so sorry that you're lost. Being with Brandon gives me the same safe, at home feeling that nothing else really can. Thank you for sharing.