This is the first Christmas without Dad. I thought I was going to be strong. I’m trying to be strong. As early as September, the time I normally book my ticket home, I realized I didn’t want to go home for the first time in many years and I knew why. Dad was my Christmas spirit and I could not imagine his absence. In September he planted cabbages and carrots so they would be ready by Christmas time. In October he grew spinach. Some months earlier he planted corn and squash. He knew these were my favorite. We talked about the cow or goat that would be slaughtered for the family. We always had a plan. With my siblings we would go home. We would be looking out for each other. We knew what to wear and how much would be the family tithe. We would be home. We would drive from Kampala to Kabale a few days to Christmas and we would stay for the New Year. After that we would disperse. We would have eaten a lot of the vegetables and we would have finished the meat. We would look in the stores and gardens for what to take back to Kampala with us. There would always be something to bring our friends. That was the ritual.
Today I went to the grocery store and picked up some carrots, cabbage, butternut squash, corn and beef. I opened my dad’s diaries that I carried with me in May and began to read. But I couldn’t go on for long because I was already soaking in his spirit, asking him how he is, but fully knowing how he is, telling him how I am, how delightful it would have been to be with him, to touch him, to celebrate one more Christmas season with him. What did he think?
There was a message on my phone from one of my sisters. Apparently, she too was not home but our brothers were. They were holding the fort. My sister wanted me to talk about the cabbages and carrots and skip the part that involves our dad. Been avoiding the thought, she said. We can’t avoid it, I said. We’ve got work to do. A necessity to invent a new Christmas. A leap of perception, so to speak. It might take time and none of us is in a hurry but eventually it will be done. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to us!