Holiday TraditionsbyDG Hear©
Thank you to Linda62953 for editing this story and making it a much better read.
Christmas didn't mean much to me anymore; it will never be the same. I had lost my wife Mary, earlier this year. Even though it wasn't unexpected, it still hurt like hell. After two years of chemo and dozens of trips to the doctor and stays in the hospital, Mary and I became closer. Like people have always said, 'You don't know what you have until you lose it', and it really was true.
We hadn't gotten along all that well for the last few years before she contracted cancer, but we'd stayed together anyway. Now that I think back, maybe it had a lot to do with Mary's health. We were both fifty-six when she passed away. We have a son, daughter and four grandkids that miss her very much.
We didn't have the perfect marriage; in fact, it was far from it. For thirty-five years, we tried to make it work. In my younger days, I used to go out with the guys and leave Mary at home with the kids. Once both kids started school, she said she was going to find a job and 'do her own thing'. We argued a lot about her working, but she didn't listen to me. Sex always seemed to be on the back burner for a lot of our marriage.
I will admit I was immature and flirted with a lot of women, usually after drinking too much. I became jealous when Mary would talk to other men, even guys we knew. We seemed to argue about anything and everything, but especially when she went out with her friends. I was honestly afraid she would cheat on me and I wouldn't know how to handle it.
Many years ago, I did get drunk and had two one-night stands. I know she found out about them from my ex-friend Bill. He told her about them so he could try to get into her pants. When she told me what Bill had said to her, I called him a 'fucking liar'. I even went to his house and beat the shit out of him.
His wife Sally called the police and I was arrested. It happened a long time ago and Mary convinced Bill to drop the charges for the sake of our kids. To the day my wife died, I'm positive she believed Bill, instead of me.
Do I regret my mistakes I made in my younger days? Of course I do, but you can't turn back the clock and there are no 'do over's'.
It was at that time in our life that she started going out with the girls every few months. I followed her many times, without her knowing and never once did I find her cheating on me. Most of her girlfriends were married with kids also. I guess they really did just want a night out away from their husbands and kids. Her sister Dorothy who I really like usually went with her.
She also went to a lot of girlie party's like Tupperware, baking, clothing and purses. God knows how many of them she attended.
Our relationship was one of those 'on again, off again' things. I think we were a typical married couple at the time. Our family came first. We did our best to be there for all the school activities and competitions right up through their graduations and the kids' marriages. Then we started with the grandkids.
When we first got married our sex life was like two rabbits in heat. Neither of us were very experienced or adequately informed, so we watched a little porn and tried to replicate what we saw. It was much more funny than sexy.
We did have our really 'good days'. It was usually after parties like weddings and anniversaries that Mary would dress up and look sexy as hell. I was always proud to be with her. I wanted to tell all the guys who looked at her, "Tough shit Buddy! I'm going to take her home and fuck the living shit out of her. She's all mine." Needless to say, I thought it, but never said it out loud. After these episodes, Mary would often ask me why I was smiling.
I always got along with Mary's family. Her parents treated me like a son and her sister Dorothy was probably the only woman I cared for, besides Mary. They were so much alike and I would be lying if I didn't say I'd thought about Dorothy many times over the years.
I'm not sure how she felt but I think there was a connection between us. Neither of us pursued it though. Dorothy married Howard and had two kids of her own. The four of us spent a lot of time together and all the kids were close in age and grew up as good friends as well as cousins.
Mary and I went through a rather uneventful life. She took care of the inside stuff and I handled the outside duties. We would fight or argue over minor things, but I do believe we truly loved each other. We just weren't big on showing it.
After the one night affairs I knew Mary didn't totally trust me. If I talked to a woman, she would usually give me some smart remark and I'd say something back, which I would regret later. I honestly didn't fool around with anyone after the time I was locked up, but I guess I lost Mary's trust and never totally got it back.
When we went to parties, I would often sit and just watch her. It seemed like the only times she would kind of flirt was when she knew I was watching. She knew I had this huge jealous streak and would try to push my buttons. The thing is, I watched her body language but had no idea what she was saying.
One time at a New Years party she must have went too far. I went to the restroom and when I came out, she was dancing with someone she worked with. All I knew about him was, his name was Rob and he was divorced.
I didn't much care for the guy and when he slid his hand down to Mary's ass, she looked surprised and over at me. Before she could push his hand away, I was on him like a cat on a mouse. I grabbed him from behind and threw him to the floor. I hit him once before I was pulled off him.
"If you ever touch my wife again, I'll fucking kill you!" I said to the bastard.
Mary was crying and went to the ladies room with a girlfriend. Rob got up and headed to the men's room to clean up. I did bloody his mouth. No one was going to file charges and I was asked to leave. I waited for Mary to come out and she was embarrassed as we left.
"How could you do such a thing? I have to work with these people. What on earth made you do that? I'm so embarrassed," said Mary.
"How do you think I felt watching you flirt with that asshole, and letting him put has hand on your ass?" I replied.
"I had it under control; I was just going to push his hand back up to my waist and not make a scene." It was quiet in the car, and then Mary said, "I'm sorry! I didn't mean for that to happen. I love you Jim and would never do anything intentionally to hurt you. Will you forgive me?"
"Just stop trying to make me jealous. I will always be there to protect you and will never stand still and let any man grope you."
That night we had some of the best sex ever. I do believe it drew us closer in an understanding with each other. Something tells me, she told her sister Dorothy about what had happened and even about the sex. It was just the way Dorothy looked at me the next time I saw her, it was as if I could almost read her mind.
Life went on and things soon were back to normal. Mary did say the asshole apologized to her at work and she promised me she would stay away from him.
Christmas time around our house was always a treat. Over the years, Mary would go all out for the kids. I would tell her she spent way too much money but she never listened to me. I told her I was the one who would have to put up all the outside decorations. I really didn't mind it and the kids usually helped me.
Christmas morning was always a big thing at our house. We opened presents and then Mary would go in the kitchen and make a huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy.
Even after our kids had grown up Mary and I would sit in front of our tree on Christmas mornings and open our few presents. Then the phone would ring and the kids and grandkids said they would all be over for breakfast.
It's funny how you remember these special times. I guess in the future, the memories are all we have left. When Mary contracted cancer, I promised her I would be there for her. I meant it and I was there every day, at every chemo appointment and sat with her all night long when she went to the hospital.
I did it out of love for her and some remorse for the bad times I had put her through. I was doing my best to try making it up to her.
Dorothy's husband Howard died of a heart attack the same year Mary found out about her cancer. They were there for each other. Dorothy was two years older than Mary.
Dorothy's kids lived out of state and came home for their father's funeral. Mary was by Dorothy's side holding her hand during the funeral service. After her kids went home Mary was worried about Dorothy being all alone. Mary asked me if I would do the 'man of the house' things to help Dorothy out.
It was no problem and I was happy to do it seeing she only lived a block away. Dorothy worked in an insurance office so it helped her to keep busy. I did stop by and mow the yard or shovel the snow, depending on the season. When Mary started therapy, Dorothy was at our house every evening to be with her sister.
On the days Mary had chemo, Dorothy would make us dinner so Mary could rest. The two sisters sat and talked, much about the old times and how they grew up. They were so much alike. I did my best to leave them alone and let them talk.
Dorothy was handling the loss of her husband quite well. Her kids would call her regularly. They even asked her to move out of state to where they lived so she wouldn't be alone.
I overheard one of her conversations one day. "Honey, I'm not alone, I have Mary and Jim here. I'm getting along fine, and Mary and I have always been close; she needs me. We love talking about old times. She has her good days and her bad days."
Then her daughter would talk and Dorothy would continue. "Jim is a Godsend; he comes over and helps me with any house repairs. He mows the yard and does whatever needs to be done. I love the man, Mary is lucky to have him." I saw a smile cross her face. She didn't know I could see and hear her.
As time went by, Mary was getting worse. She was rushed to the hospital, Dorothy, and my kids, Mark and Susan were there with me. We were told that Mary wanted to see each one of us alone. We knew this was the end when they called us all in. The kids went in first and came out crying. I went in next.
"Jim, I love you. I want you to know that. I know we've had some bad times but we had a lot of good ones too," she gave a slight smile. Thank you for being there for me. I know it wasn't always easy for you, either."
She hesitated before continuing on, "Jim, I need you to take care of Dorothy for me. I love her with all my heart and need to know you'll be there for her."
"I promise to help her all I can," I replied with tears in my eyes.
"Something that I have never told you was, when we were first dating, Dorothy said she had a crush on you and that if I didn't marry you, she would. I know that was a long time ago but I just wanted you to know. I love you Jim." I kissed her and she asked me to tell Dorothy to come in. I know I had tears in my eyes but tried to remain strong. I waited in the hall.
After talking to Dorothy, we all went back in and I held her hand as she took her last breath. I couldn't hold back anymore and we all cried. After we gained our composures, we left the hospital. I wasn't in shock, but I was at a loss as what to do now.
Back when my parents and Mary's parents died, Mary was the strong one. Between her and Dorothy, they handled all the arrangements. Dorothy told me not to worry; she would be there for me.
Dorothy was there and helped Susan and I with all the funeral arrangements. I don't know what I would have done without her. I got a hold of our lawyer; thank God, we had a will. It was something Dorothy told us to do after her husband died so unexpectedly.
Over the next few months after Mary's funeral, Dorothy and the kids came over and helped me sort through Mary's things. They made sure the grandkids got keepsakes to remember their grandmother by.
Susan and Mark's wife, Christy took most of the jewelry and other womanly things. It seemed odd that most of the nice clothing didn't fit the girls but were Dorothy's size. I told her to take them. I knew Mary would want her to have them. Besides, even though the clothes were expensive, the younger girls dressed differently.
Before long, it was already time for Thanksgiving. Dorothy was invited to her daughter's and thought she would go. I'd miss her, but I told her I'd keep an eye on her place. She'd be gone for a week.
Mark and his wife Christy invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner. They also invited Susan and her family over. It's the first time that I could remember not having Thanksgiving dinner without Mary cooking it. Thank God, Mary taught Susan and Christy how to cook.
The food was great, but I know everyone still missed Mary. I guess it was time for the next generation to take over. Christy gave me enough leftovers to last me a week, since Dorothy wouldn't be there to make sure I ate well. It made everyone laugh, but when I thought about it, they were right. Dorothy did look after me.
I was happy to see Dorothy come home. I told her I was tired of turkey and invited her out to dinner. As we ate spaghetti and meatballs, we talked about Christmas. I told her that Mary did most of the shopping and I wasn't sure what to buy the family.
She explained to me what she did. She gave all the adults gift cards from their favorite stores and they could buy what they wanted. Since the grandkids liked to open presents, she made a list of the things they wanted and bought them some of those things.
I asked her if she would go shopping with me, especially since I wasn't the best shopper. She agreed and I got a list from Christy and Susan of what I might get the kids. I set a limit of two hundred dollars each. It's also the amount of the gift cards I gave each adult.
Some people would say it was a lot to spend, but my family is all I have and it was probably less than what Mary would have spent. Dorothy and I went shopping two Saturdays in a row and I bought the gifts for the kids and picked up the gift cards.
After we finished shopping, I asked Dorothy if she'd like to go to the movies. She laughed and thought it would be fun. I bought us each a large popcorn and a beverage. The popcorn and beverage cost more than the movie. I couldn't remember the last time I went to a movie, but it didn't cost me over twenty dollars.
I wasn't going to put up the decorations this year. I just didn't have the Christmas spirit. Susan came over and said, "Dad, we have traditions and just because mom is gone, doesn't mean our traditions end. We all miss Mom too. Mark said he would help you with the outside lights. The kids and I will decorate the inside and put up the tree."
I knew she was right, but even though I wasn't in the mood, I went along for the sake of the family traditions.
I asked the kids about Christmas breakfast. Susan said that after their family opened their presents they'd come over, the kids could open the gifts I got them and then we would have our traditional breakfast.
Dorothy stopped by a few days before Christmas and told me her kids invited her to spend Christmas with them.
"Dorothy, go be with your family for the holidays. Mark, Susan and their families will both be here. We're going to try to have our traditional Christmas. I do wish you a Merry Christmas."
She gave me a big hug and even a light kiss. It dawned on me that I don't think we had ever kissed outside of maybe, New Year's. I didn't say anything as she left.
It was now Christmas Eve and I was home alone. After wrapping the kids and grandkids' gifts, I poured myself a drink and sat down in front of the Christmas tree, all decorated with the few presents under it to be open the next day.
It was then I noticed that I had forgotten to give Dorothy her gift. I had went out and bought her an emerald necklace and matching earrings. I had them wrap it for me and just placed it under the tree.
I sat there alone sipping my drink when I heard a knock on the door. I had to wonder who in the hell was coming by at nine o'clock at night on Christmas Eve.
"Well, Jim, are you going to invite me in, or do I have to stand out here in the cold?"
My mouth flew open when I saw Dorothy standing there. I apologized and she came in. I had to hug her. I couldn't help it; we old guys are like that.
I said, "I thought you were going to go be with your family for the holidays?"
She said, "I called my daughter and told her I wasn't going to be coming this year. I told her I was going to spend the holidays with you. To be honest, I felt like I was imposing on my daughter and her family and I didn't want to be away from you for that long."
She smiled like Mary used to and said, "I know I'm not Mary and I'm an older woman, but I'm lonely too, Jim. Besides I promised Mary I would take care of you, and how can I do that if I'm not here?"
I couldn't think of anyone alive that I wanted to be with more. To say she was beautiful or gorgeous would seem funny to people since she was close to sixty years old, but to me she was. She looked great for her age.
I don't know why I did it but I leaned over, kissed her on the lips, and then started to apologize for it.
She said, "Don't apologize. I wanted you to kiss me, but I needed to think things out and have a talk with you first."
I took her coat and asked her to sit down. I asked her if she wanted a drink and got her a glass of wine. I reached under the tree and handed her the present I bought her.
I told her I was going to give it to her the day she left, but I'd forgot. She opened it and smiled as she thanked me. "When we were shopping I saw you looking at it and went back and bought it for you." This time she gave me a light kiss.
"Ok, it's time to talk." Then she began to explain things to me. "Jim, you know that I have always cared for you. Mary knew it too and she told me she told you.
"You know how close Mary and I were. She loved you, Jim, she loved you deeply. You also know that she never really forgave you for the affairs, until her last days. Yes, Jim, I know all about the affairs. Mary and I didn't keep secrets from each other.
She told me you tried everything to make it up to her, but she just couldn't let it go. I tried to convince her many times to forgive you, but she just said she couldn't."
"I loved my husband Howard. He was a wonderful and faithful man. We had a wonderful life together. I'll always remember him. He'll always have a place in my heart just like Mary will always have one in yours. But Jim, I have always loved you, too. I know you felt something too, but you belonged to Mary. I would never do anything to hurt her.
"As you know Mary talked to us before her passing. Jim, Mary was worried about you being alone. The last thing she said to me was, "Dorothy, take care of my Jim. I know he loves you, too. He's a good man, but I'm afraid he won't make it on his own. He needs plenty of love and attention. He's stubborn as an ox and won't listen to you. But he is a wonderful man and you need him, too, Dorothy."
I was crying again. Damn, grown men aren't suppose to cry and that's about all I do anymore. I looked at Dorothy and said, "Mary was right, you know. I've always had feelings for you. Other than Mary, you're the only person I truly care for."
I asked Dorothy if she was staying the night.
She looked at me and said, "Jim, I'll stay forever if you want me to."
Tears welled up in my eyes again, as I kissed her. I told her that was fine with me. Deep down, I knew Mary was all right with this. Later, after Mary had passed away, I found out that she and Dorothy had talked many times about me and my life years ago.