A forkful of potato casserole had barely made it to my mouth before I saw movement through the window. My heart skipped a beat and my stomach flipped. I tried to ignore the figure, hoping that, even though it wouldn't happen, the person would leave. I closed my eyes, rocking back and forth in my chair gently, the fork shaking in my hand. I swallowed the potato casserole which had gone cold in my open mouth.
My grandfather, whom I call Poppy, sighed heavily and moved his large, six foot frame toward the door. He stood in front of the threshold, hands shoved in his pocket, trying to get a better look out the window above the door.
"I thought you said he was coming later," Nana called from the kitchen where she was heating up some leftovers for herself.
"When he called, he said they weren't that far away."
My breath hitched in my throat. They. More than just my drugged up uncle. My hand started shaking more and Mom glanced at me as Dad wrapped an arm around my shoulders, attempting to comfort his freaked out daughter. The fork fell from my hand and clattered on the plate right when the doorbell rang.
"Don't you dare answer that yet, Dad," Mom warned, holding a finger up to him as he made a move. "Here, let's move you into the other room."
I could do nothing but nod my head carefully, gripping Dad's hand as Mom moved my plate and cup into the computer room. When she came back, she took my hand in hers, rubbing my fingers softly. I was still shaking and could barely stand. I felt tears forming at the corner of my eyes, trying to run down my cheeks toward my shattering heart. I focused on my feet, careful to move one after the other, talking myself through it. When I was only a foot from the computer room, the doorbell rang again, sending me into hysterical sobs that wracked my body so much that I would have fallen to the ground had Mom's arms not caught me. She held me up and Dad came over to help her get me in the other room. They had barely closed the door behind us when I heard the front door open and Poppy say a greeting.
I collapsed in a recliner, swiping at my face and waving my parents away. "I'm…" I took a deep breath. "I'm fine, you… You can go."
Dad nodded solemnly and slipped out the door. Mom kissed the top of my head and told me to call if I needed anything. As soon as she left, the sobs wracked my body again.
I wasn't sure why I was crying exactly. I hadn't seen my Uncle V for years now, thanks to the drug addiction that estranged him from the rest of our family. Every Christmas Eve, him and his son would come up from LA to have dinner and open a few presents. When my other uncle, L, moved in with him and decided to start a pot farm, though, everything just went downhill. Every time we watched the news, I was scared we would see them, busted for illegal drugs. But not once did we ever see them or even hear about them. Then Uncle L moved back to Tennessee, hoping to start back up on his relationship with a girlfriend who reintroduced him to drugs. That left my cousin, D, and Uncle V with an untended pot farm.
The drug thing goes back way farther than that, though. Uncle V never married. He had a strong relationship with the mother of his child, thanks to drugs and cigarettes. D grew up in a family taken over by the evil wiles of sin, a house full of smoke and alcohol. It was a wonder he became a great kid. He never did drugs; he never smoked, never drank alcohol or got in trouble at school. Our family was surprised at the way he turned out. Honor roll and everything.
I always loved D. I first met him when I was eight and he was ten. It was Christmas Eve and we were spies darting around bushes in the backyard. Our families would laugh as we ran through the living room, holding our hands in the shape of a gun, hoping to catch bad guys. I always looked up to him. Not only because he was so fun, but because of what he came through. To come through a family addicted, to come from a woman who still did drugs while pregnant, to come through something like that was so amazing, and, even at a young age, I wished I could be strong like him. Every year I looked forward to seeing him and, when Uncle V started drugs again, I missed him when he stopped coming.
The turning point for my D's life was the pot farm. Both L and V used him to guard while they probably smoked pot out the wazoo. I'm pretty sure he started to feel left out, guarding a farm that he couldn't partake in, and, after Uncle L went back to Tennessee and Uncle V cleaned up, D started drugs.
This whole thing doesn't sound unfortunate enough to create such an emotional stir within my body, though. If that was the whole story, I would just be disappointed in my family as I had been for a while. If that was the whole story, I would be out in the living room, trying to convince D to change his life. But, obviously, there's more to the story.
Poppy is a great man. A strong Christian, a strong person, a kind person. The kind of grandfather anyone would kill for. So why, pray tell, was he cursed with such horrible children? Uncle V and Uncle L grew up in a broken home. Poppy and his first wife divorced, leaving the children in a state of confusion about how to grow up. Poppy would set rules and Uncle L would go to his mother's house, determined to get his way, determined to be disobedient, determined to prove that Uncle V was the favorite.
Still, years later, when Uncle L is in his fifties, does he try to prove that Uncle V was the favorite. Five days before Christmas, he shows up on my grandparents doorstep. Having barely any money, he looks ragged and beat up, thin and starving. When he smiles, the teeth that he has are yellow and ruined. For this horrible smile, he blames Poppy. And, after berating him about his health issues, Uncle L tries, once again, to prove that Uncle V was the favorite. After he left, Poppy broke down in tears, weeping in his recliner, wondering why this happened to him. I thank God that they're moving and not telling Uncle L or Uncle V because of this. Nana was scared and claimed that, if Uncle L had been high, he probably would have had a very short temper and could have possibly hurt them.
Then, the day before Christmas I find out that D started drugs and that Uncle V is coming to visit Poppy for advice. At first this angered me. It's all Uncle V's fault that D started in the first place. He's now in the same exact position as Poppy, trying to help his child, but knowing he can't, knowing the addiction is too strong too powerful. After my moment of anger, my heart broke, knowing my hero had finally fallen off the large pedestal I put him on.
I'd always read about addiction, always had been fascinated with it, had even considered trying something even though I knew how bad it was. I knew, from my own experience, that it killed family relations, that it estranged once close family members. Yet, I still wanted to see what it was like and I thought that nothing would happen to me. (Thank God I never followed through on that, who knows where I would be now?) And then, it dawned on me, that's what everyone thinks. Everyone thinks "Oh it won't happen to me". But it does. Addiction is a greedy monster, one that grabs you by the hand, then slowly moves higher and higher until it has a fat hand around your throat, choking the life out of you. That's what had happened to my now fifty-something uncles who ran around blaming others for their problems and never taking responsibility for their own addiction.
That's why, sitting in the computer room, I was shaking with uncontrollable sobs. When I finally quieted down, I could hear Poppy offering the guests some food. Under my breath I cursed his good spirit, never crushed by incessant insanity. Then I heard the three men move into the living room, boots smashing on the floor as they went.
The real reason Uncle V was here was for pictures. Pictures of family after my great-great-aunt died. The underlying reason Uncle V was here was for D. To help his budding addiction, to get the monster to let go of his hand before it was around his throat.
I looked at the pile of food in front of me, but I couldn't make myself eat it. I wanted to go out there and just punch Uncle V and D in the face. I wanted them to realize what stupidity they've thrown on themselves, how cruel they were being to Poppy. I wanted to punch them, then curl up in a corner and sob. Sob for our lost relationships, for a lost D, for a lost brilliance dulled by drugs, for a lost innocence, for three lost family members, for lost memories, for lost hugs, for lost dinners, for lost laughs, for lost moments that would shape the rest of our lives. I wanted to sob out my anger at Uncle V and Uncle L, the catalysts of this whole problem. I wanted to sob out the hurt that I felt when I found out Uncle L had come to Christmas high one time, that, when he showed me his new truck for a job, pot was hiding in it somewhere. I wanted to sob out my feelings for D, for our friendship that has been broken. I just wanted to cry.
And so I did.
I heard shouts in the living room. Shouts about a compass, promised to Uncle L by my great-grandpa, then taken away because of drugs. Shouts about the same compass then promised to Uncle V, who was clean when great-grandpa died. Shouts about the same antique compass that Poppy vowed to never give to a drug-addicted family member. Shouts about the same, expensive, antique compass that Uncle V was offering to buy with cash.
My head fell in my hands and I couldn't feel any part of my body. A knock came at the door and, before I could fully wipe away tears, a body came into view. The person stared and I stared back, shocked at what I was seeing.
D was standing at the door, his face red from walking into the wrong room. A faint odor of smoke drifted off of him as he put his hand back on the doorknob. His clothes were dirty and ragged, hanging off of his thin frame, making him seem smaller than he actually his. His eyes were the same as I'd always remembered them- dark brown, deep set, surrounded by furrowed eyebrows. He looked just like his young self.
I couldn't bring myself to do anything but bite my lip and look away, hoping he would leave. As if reading my mind, he slowly backed out, closing the door behind him. Another sob went through my body, holding it under siege for a few minutes. I had finally calmed down when the door suddenly opened.
Poppy stood there, talking to someone just out of view, before opening the door wider and making his way over to the computer desk. I looked up, wiping at my eyes, and saw Uncle V. He looked much older than I remembered. His hair had gone grey and a bald spot was forming on the top of his head. Laugh lines and wrinkles were the most prominent blemishes on his face, despite chapped lips and rotted teeth. His grey-blue eyes studied me. I forced a smile, which turned into more of a grimace. Then, Uncle V had the nerve to limp (he almost lost his leg in a motorcycle accident) over to me and touch my shoulder. He smiled at me and looked as if he was expecting a hug.
At that exact moment, Poppy turned around from the desk, the pictures in his hand, and saw how uncomfortable I was. He immediately motioned for Uncle V to leave, then shut the door behind him, leaving me to my sobs again.
It felt like hours until they finally left. Until they finally did, sobs flowed through my body and the food in front of me made me sick. When I heard the front door close, I attempted to stand up. I could hear my other family members in the living room, walking about, talking. My legs were shaky as I stood and I wasn't sure if they would support my weight. I put a hand on the wall as I took step after step into the living room. When I finally emerged, the sight in front of me made my heart sink even more.
Poppy was sitting in a chair, stoic. His eyes stared blankly ahead as, one by one, tears started to fall. I made my way over to him, my legs suddenly strengthened by the need to comfort, to show that not everyone in Poppy's life is a failure. I sat on his lap and wrapped an arm around his neck, wiping away the few stray tears that sat on his cheeks. I put my head on his chest, just holding his large frame within my small arms, listening to his steady breathing, feeling his tears fall into my hair.
Finally, after a few minutes, I looked at him. "Poppy," I said, my voice shaking. "I love you. And I would never, ever hurt you the way that they have."
Poppy looked at me and, through the tears falling, smiled a genuine smile before wrapping his arms around my frame. "Thank you."
A/N: Yes, this is based on the actual Christmas that I experienced yesterday. Most events were exaggerated or completely changed to create a better story. I was extremely emotionally charged while writing this, but I know it probably won't show through my writing. A lot of what was mentioned in here didn't even happen, save a few things. The premise (Christmas, leftovers, and the visitors) is pretty dead-on, but the background is quite emotions described were my exact emotions yesterday, though, so I'm sorry if they don't make sense.
I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for reading. Please review.