Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Home For The Holidays

It's hard to believe that yet another year is at an end.  In a mere twelve days, it will be 2012.

On Thursday, Amanda and I are going home for the holidays, splitting the time between my family in Chicago, and her family in Michigan (and I'm meeting them for the very first time, so that should be very interesting -- and I don't mean that in any sort of disparaging way.  It's just that, you know, meeting your significant other's family for the first time...you just never know what to expect.  Could be the Bailey family from It's A Wonderful Life, or Cousin Eddie and his brood from Christmas Vacation).

I know I've said it before, but I could never do Christmas in California.  I joke about the warm weather, and the short-wearing Santas, and the palm trees shiny with ornaments and tinsel, and while all of that is in fact true (I'd rather have a Christmas at the snowed in Overlook Hotel from The Shining than celebrate one around the swimming pool), the big thing is that I am not from California, and all of my family is back home in Chicago, and that is where I want to be for Christmas.

Besides the non-Christmas feel of the Southern California environs for the holidays, I have a deep-seated mistrust of the weather here.

It fucks with time.

No, really -- it does.

As I write this, I realize that this March will mark my fourteenth year in California -- nearly a third of my life at this point.  That's a little scary.

The issue I have with the weather is the perpetual Groundhog Day thing it does (apparently this one is going to be chock full of movie references.  Sorry about that my friends, it's just how my brain sees things).  It's always warm and sunny.

Warm and sunny.

Warm and sunny.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Now some will argue that I am exaggerating things, that the summers and hotter, and the winters are cooler -- but come on, really?  Any way you cut it, when you're looking out of the window, it always, always looks the same.

Now some people like that.  Kevin Smith says that while he loves New Jersey, he can't imagine living anywhere again where you have to shovel the driveway.  Kevin Smith, talented guy that he is, looks like he exercised last around mandatory gym class in high school.  I know I may sound like I'm being a bully and a dick, but next time you can't fit in the airplane seat, Kev, even as in the wrong as the airline may be, maybe just venting some of that energy on a lifecycle instead of your twitter account.  For a guy who's married with a kid, why would he not make his health a higher priority?

Anyway...

I love seasons.  Seasons are nature's way of chronicling time. Spring to Summer to Autumn to Winter.  What is planted, grows, blooms, bears fruit, and dies.  It's life.  Right outside your window.

When I think back on my life, I remember events in part by the seasons.  It was winter, and I was bundled up against the cold.  It was summer, and we were in the park, or at the movies.  The seasons are the ever-changing backdrop, and it helps me place the moments in their proper place in the timeline of my life.

The weather in Southern California strips the time from the moments, and the years seem not to advance, but rather run in place aboard some galactic treadmill.  Hence my surprise at the years I have lived here.  It just seems like yesterday that I got here.

But it wasn't yesterday -- and that is often a sobering and depressing thought.

I go home for Christmas to spend time with my family.  And there are times that that can be difficult.

On December 13th, my father turned 70.  My mother, who is actually a few years older than my dad, celebrated her birthday on December 9th -- but I mention my father's specifically, because for him, he feels turning 70 is a landmark.

And I think he's right.

It's hard for me to think of my father as old, but he is.  And while I, or anyone else, can ramble and blather about "you're only as old as you feel" and all that, it doesn't change the fact that my father, and my mother as well, are getting older and older.

What that means for me, what completely terrifies me, is that I don't know how many more Christmases I will have with them.

I have friends and family who lave lost a parent, if not both of them.  I consider myself extremely lucky that mine are both still around.

But I don't get home as often as I'd like, and when I do, sometimes I'm surprised how much they have changed since I saw them last.  Maybe it's just different from a picture that I keep in my head, one that keeps them forever young and vital, before the knee surgeries and minor strokes that remind me that the human body grows old, breaks down, and eventually...

I don't want to say it.

I live in fear of a call in the middle of the night.  I've never understood in movies (yes, I know, everything is a movie reference) when the phone rings in the middle of the night, and someone sleepily, and slowly, reaches out and picks up the phone, answering it with eyes still shut.  When my phone rings in the middle of the night, I am instantly awake.  No one is calling me at 2:45am to chat -- to say Hey, how you doing?  How are things?  What's new?

Something is wrong.

A few years ago my phone rang in the middle of the night.  My cousin Chris had a heart attack.  He was gone.

I live in California because I chase this dream -- perhaps foolishly, perhaps without understanding, even still after all these years, of how hard, how rare, how uphill and how remorseless this thing can be.

And living in California puts me thousands of miles away from my family, which means, if anything goes wrong, the phone rings.  Even now, if my sister calls me at 1:30 in the afternoon, outside of the usual time when we talk during my drive to work, I have a brief moment where I think Oh, please, no.  Please let everyone be okay.


So I worry.  I worry how many more years I have with my parents.  How many Christmases?  How many phone calls?  How many hugs?  How many more times to say "I love you".

And I worry if I'm failing.

I worry about the future.  If I were to get married, could we afford a house?  Could we afford to have children?  Could I feed my family?  Shelter them?

And I worry about my parents being proud of me.  It may seem a silly thing, a childish thing, to worry what your parents think, but is it?

I know my parents love me.  But I also don't want them to worry about me.

I look at the career of Christopher Nolan, who, just like me, moved out to Hollywood from Chicago, at about the same time I did.

He and I are the same age.

He and I couldn't have more drastically different career paths.

I look at pictures of myself as a kid, as a high school student -- and wonder What happened to that kid?  He had so much promise.  He had his whole life ahead of him.

I wonder where I went wrong.

All of these things race through my mind.  At Christmas.  As yet another year comes to an end.

I look forward to going home, and I try to cherish every moment that I have.

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