Hello there, Dear Reader. It’s mid-morning here in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. Today marks the winter solstice, which means that the sun will reach its southernmost point in the sky at 15:59 UTC (10:59 EST) and mark the beginning of “astronomical winter.” It is, appropriately, a cold, gray, and wet day. Currently, the temperature is 65˚F (18˚C) in rainy conditions. With the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 12 MPH (20 KM/H) and humidity at 97%, the wind-chill factor is 64˚F (18˚C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers throughout the day and a high of 77˚F (25˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 56˚F (13˚C).
I have been up for several hours. I woke up way before sunrise – at 4:04 AM, to be exact – to go to the bathroom and could not go back to sleep. I’ve had my by-now traditional cup of café con leche, so I’m not fuzzy minded – yet. (Wait till the caffeine’s effect wears out; I’ll be singing a different tune, that’s for sure.) And because it’s been raining on and off since I woke up, I’ve heard a few dull booms of thunder in the distance – a dark and stormy morning indeed, as well as a tiring one.
Christmas Day – which falls on Saturday this year – is less than four days away, and I feel a weary ambivalence about it. This is, after all, my seventh December holiday season that I spend without either my mom or my older half-sister. I still grieve – for vastly different reasons – over this fact.
I’ve written plenty of posts about my mom’s death and the sad – but inevitable – estrangement from my half-sister, so I don’t feel like going over that well-traveled territory today. I will say this, though: the fact that I’m here in Lithia, 251 or so miles away from the house I lived in for 38 years is a direct consequence of those two personal tragedies, both of which are strongly connected.
I don’t feel acutely sad this year; the worst holiday season was the 2015/2016 Christmas-New Year’s Day week, which was the first that I spent without either my mother or my nemesis in nearly four decades. One absence, of course, made me incredibly sad, while the other one was a relief. For the first time since 2009 – the year that my mom’s health began to seriously deteriorate – I was spared from the annual holiday drama that was fostered by my older half-sister.
Nowadays, I’m neither enthused nor apathetic about the holidays. My mood tends to shift like the reeds in a strong breeze. I’ve been more enthusiastic about shopping for gifts this year than I was last year, for instance, and I’ve actually played my one and only Christmas album – Il Volo’s Buon Natale: The Christmas Album – for the first time since I added it to my Amazon Music library in 2012. I’ve also listened to a lot of holiday music – mostly secular, but some religious carols as well – this year, mostly on YouTube, and mostly in choral arrangements.
On the other hand, I’m not ecstatic about the impending arrival of Christmas 2021. I’ll go along to get along, as the saying goes, and be a willing participant in my new family’s holiday gathering, I’ll smile and joke and go along with the program, thank the Caregiver and her boyfriend for the gifts they got me, hand out my own batch of gifts to their various recipients, then cheerfully march to bed when we disperse for the night.
If I feel any trace of sadness, I’ll just suppress it and smile my way through it. I’ve become an expert at that this. Especially over the past 18 months. “Fake it till you make it,” or so the expression goes.
Well, the caffeine is wearing off, and I’m beginning to feel like a tin soldier whose spring is winding down, so I think I’ll close for now. Until next time, Dear Reader, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.
 That’s not to say that Vicky didn’t try to make my last Christmas season in Miami miserable. She didn’t go to the house to confront me in person, but she did call my old cell phone number twice on the 24th. Both times I answered her calls politely, even warmly, all things considered. Both times she hung up the phone without uttering a word. Rather childish, really.
 Perversely, I own the digital copy of Buon Natale because I bought the compact disc for my half-sister’s Christmas present in ’12. I did not mark it as a “gift” and had it sent to my address rather than to Vicky’s apartment, so I was entitled to the free “Autorip” digital copy. I assiduously avoided listening to it because I associate Il Volo with Vicky (she did, after all, request the CD) until a few days ago. It’s actually pretty good, y’know?