Mike Creger: Cherish family this holiday season
I wrote the story above in 1996 (linked on the right). I was in a writing class with an instructor who obviously was on the cutting edge of writing fashion.
He encouraged memoir-type prose, just as we were about to be culturally bombarded with tell-all books in a trend that continues today, albeit with a more discerning readership.
I cherish this story for reasons that are imbedded in my holiday psyche and terrible fate.
Grandpa, my father, died suddenly three years ago. Corey, who I am never afraid to say was my favorite niece, died in a plane crash two years ago this week.
It's gross understatement to say this story, part of my past, the living memory of two loved ones, is important. It's vital.
As we enter the holiday season, it's common to hear plaints about forced time spent with family. It's a glory of my life that despite growing up in a large family, eight children, we don't have any of those festering resentments, jealousies, rivalries. We aren't perfect, but it's a wonder that getting together for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays and picnics, has nary a hint of animosity, dread, loathing.
There are just moments. Like that day in 1996, the last Thanksgiving I can remember with snow in southern Minnesota.
I work hard to keep family connections. It's difficult with distance in the way, schedules to coordinate, your own life to set straight.
Josh is a freshman at the University of Omaha. We visited with him, and my sister in Lincoln, this fall.
Being a victim of the economy and not having a job for several months, there was a moment I realized that all the sweat of resumes, interviews, and general worries of paying bills would remain despite my best efforts. Better to accept, and try to get some good out of forced time off.
So I spent the better part of the summer and into fall reconnecting with family and friends. It was a good feeling, one that makes getting back to work all the much harder.
But nothing is as hard as being in the wilderness, literally and figuratively, with a brother who has lost his first child. Or with a mother who simply says "it's lonely," when it comes to Dad.
It's why I continue to write it all down, following my father's advice to some day get a book out about our large and zany family growing up on a farm, living on not much but our own wits, love, and faith.
I'm entering that phase in life when, as one author I am currently reading says, all the past is no longer a puzzle to solve. It's slowly dissolving to gray. And living in the present, getting by each day, takes precedence.
But I can't help but get mushy reminiscent around this time of year. There are traditions to carry on as this returning, nestle-in holiday season keeps memories burning brightly.
I urge you to get it all down. Reach for understanding in your family. Cherish the memories, revel in the present.
We're never guaranteed another season, more moments, with the ones we love.