November 29th, 2013, it was the day after Thanksgiving, I had volunteered to work that day and Brett had the day off. It had been a pretty slow and uneventful day so at 2:00 when the clinic closed I decided to go home. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw Brett and the kids putting up Christmas lights. It was a tender moment, one that had not happened the year before because Brett had broken his shoulder. I parked the car and snapped a few pictures, I posted them to FaceBook stating “All is well with the world. I came home to find Xmas lights going up AFTER Thanksgiving. I fully understand these are just the first lights to go on and there are many, many more to come Mr. Grizwold, but these look great!”
Brett would proceed to add many strings of lights to our trees, the bushes, the front porch and even trees in the back yard. If it stood still, was tall enough and an extension cord could reach it, he would light it up. He decorated the windows from the inside, not a big ladder guy. But not only would he outline the frame, there would also be some light up figurine in the window. He loved lights. He was so proud one year when our street’s holiday party voted our house as having the best lights. He would look out the front window and beam with pride as passing cars would slow down and admire his work. These were our good times before the business and obligations of the season.
Little did we know 2013 would be the last time the kids would string up lights with their Dad. Little did we know that I would need help in taking all those lights down the following spring without him. I am so glad I took the pictures.
Last year the holidays were awful. Brett had not been gone a year, the kids didn’t want much of anything to do with anything and frankly I simply wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. But I didn’t although we didn’t put up a single light, a single decoration and our tree was a tree we decorated in the cemetery. It was sad but appropriate for how we felt.
This year, the weather has been unseasonably warm. Kids were in shorts into November; unheard of in these parts. By now we’ve usually felt the temps dip into the 30’s and seen a dusting of snow.
“It’s 50 degrees already, do you want to put lights up outside?” I asked during breakfast. They looked at me as if I had tattooed my face. “Well, do you want to or not?”
I really didn’t care either way, ours could certainly be the dark house again this year but somehow I wanted to honor Brett’s love of lights. Pass onto them that it would be ok to do. Jay didn’t care, he’s fifteen, his answer for everything these days comes with a shoulder shrug and an “I don’t care, sure, whatever.” But Elle, wanted to put up a few, just a few. So after breakfast Jay and I headed into the attic. There they were, nine paper grocery bags full of lights and in the first bag a diagram of where the lights were and which belonged in which section. Overcome with emotion and eyes full of tears, tears we would not allow roll down our cheeks, we grabbed the map and decided we would only do the small tree and the banister on the porch. Armed with a plan and bags in hand we set out to put up lights, only Jay turned to me and barked, “I would rather do anything right now than do this with you.”
Hurtful punk! “Fine! Go do your homework.” I scolded back and I knew and he knew neither one was really mad just…missing Brett. This was not our thing, this was not the way it used to be. He stayed and helped me wrap the trunk of the tree just outside our door. We argued the entire time and finally he just went inside. Elle then walked over with more lights and without a word started placing then in the branches. We put lights on the banister and to her request decorated another tree trunk, but with both of standing at 5’2″ we couldn’t reach the branches so out came the ladder and Jay (he’s just over 5’7″). “I thought you were only doing one tree.” he said.
He strung up lights into the branches of the second tree and left us once more. Elle did a third tree and proceeded to go into the attic for the light up inflatables, a 7 ft. polar bear, a 4 ft. Santa and a 4 ft. snowman. She plugged them in and they quickly were inflated. Jay came out once more and placed candy canes on the porch fence. It was one of the hardest projects we have taken on but we did it.
We are keeping Brett’s memory alive and continuing his traditions. All will never be well with the world again, we will not win the best Christmas lights award but we will not be the dark house on the street either.