The holidays are here, but don't get too excited. I'm going to bum you out.
Not even kidding.
But I'm going to do it now, well in advance of the holidays, so you have time to get in the spirit.
In fact, it's spirits we're talking about.
Because not all holiday memories are happy.
Particularly ones that involve losing family members.
Like my father, Frank Scottoline.
This is the time of year that I always remember him, starting around Veterans Day. Mainly because he served in what used to be called the U.S. Army Air Force, and I can picture the colorized photo of him in his uniform, which used to rest on my mother's bureau. And every year, in November, I regret that I have no idea where that photo is, though I have tried vainly to find it, and I regret that I never asked him more about his service in the war.
And of course, most of all, I regret that he is no longer here.
Or at least, living.
Though he is here where it really matters, in my heart.
I'm writing about him only because I suspect many of you have similar regrets and heartaches around this time of the year.
And I bet many of you are similarly caught between words like here, there, and hereafter.
And some of you won't be able to say the word dead and will go instead with passed away.
And though you have lost someone you loved very much, you may not even be able to visit their grave.
It doesn't mean you don't care.
On the contrary.
It means you care too much.
There is a wonderful Italian expression, I grandi dolori sono muti.
It translates to "great griefs are mute."
I believe that.
So I'm not trumpeting my grief to make you feel sorry for me, because I have plenty of blessings, among them that I was my father's daughter while he was alive.
I'm still his daughter, though he has … passed away.
And I'm sure many of you bear your grief on your own, in silence, especially around this time of year.
I think of it as good grief.
Or like the Italian proverb says, great grief.
Because it's grief and love, mixed up in bittersweet.
Maybe the person you lost passed away at this time of year (as in my father's case), or maybe you just miss him or her more at this time of year, when people are getting together around the holidays, and we're allegedly the happiest, but you can imagine whoever you lost around the table. (Also in my father's case.)
You know which seat was theirs (at the head of the table), what they would've eaten (a lot), whether they liked white or dark meat (either, because everything was fine with him), or how quickly they fell asleep after dinner (instantly).
In fact, my father was famous for falling asleep at the table. He would rest his cheek on his hand, close his eyes, and doze off.
My father was the mellowest guy in the world, so calm that he hovered near slumber most of the time.
You can see why he and Mother Mary got married, and also why they got divorced.
Opposites attract, but they'll need a lawyer.
In time, he remarried a wonderful woman named Fayne, and she used to make terrific holiday meals for him and her equally wonderful children, and I regret so much that I didn't go over there, to their house, for his last Thanksgiving.
I didn't know it was going to be his last.
He was in remission at the time.
And then suddenly he fell gravely ill, like the worst plot twist you ever wrote.
My father passed away 16 years ago.
Are you as surprised as I am that you can still miss someone 16 years later?
If you are, you don't have to tell me or anybody else.
We can just keep it to ourselves.
I'm not over my grief.
I'm not even trying to get over it.
Maybe don't bother.
Maybe it's baked into the great big cake that's your life, folded into your very batter.
Maybe it makes you more palatable.
Or maybe it's one of your most important ingredients.
Maybe it's why you rise.