Ghosts of Christmases past

I remember the day my father left for Iraq, it was in November of ’52. My mother and I looked from my bedroom window and watched him walk away, he did not look back, he hated goodbyes. He was not to know he would never see her again.

My mother suffered from asthma and her doctor and told my father to get her out of England as the smogs would probably kill her. He had had an offer from Boeing in Seattle, and from the Iraq Petroleum Company. I suppose he decided against Boeing because Seattle is damp like England.

My mother, whose name was Noel was born on Christmas Day, sadly she died on her birthday a month after my father left. There had been terrible smogs in London that winter , and thousands of people with chest complaints died.

My father told me that he was working out on the pipeline when the local Imam – the local Moslem religious leader for Kirkuk, came out to see him on his donkey. He remembers the compassion that man showed him , an alien in his country.

My father never forgave himself, for what he perceived as his fault, for not getting her out of London fast enough. He started drinking heavily and most of my memories of him were related to drunkeness, especially around Christmas.

Christmas is still difficult for me, about mid November I start getting angry at all the commercialism, and the excess, but maybe it has a deeper root. I barely remember my mother but I remember that Christmas.