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Lynn M. Lombard:

I love my family. Every single one of them is unique; each possessing qualities I admire.

When we are together, it is a circus of chaos consisting of our children buzzing from one room to the next, my sisters’ laughter ringing in my ears, and my brothers-in-law delivering one joke after another. And don’t forget my parents, who have always been with us, smiles on their faces. It is a treasured sight, and I love being a part of this crazy, fun group of people.

This holiday, I find myself reflecting on those priceless moments. Because for the first time in all of my 40 years of life, I won’t be spending Christmas with my parents. Snowbirds now, they will no doubt be bragging about how warm it is and showing off pictures of blue skies, green grass and palm trees. This Buffalonian will be forcing a happy face.

I feel like I should be a pro at dealing with this empty feeling I have buried deep inside my being. It started when my brother moved away and then reappeared a few years ago with my sister’s exodus from Western New York.

But going through it once more makes that hole inside me resurface and grow a little wider. And I can’t – no, I won’t – sugar coat it: I hate it!

Before my parents left, we remaining siblings tried to jokingly make them feel guilty, hoping that their planned return date would change. Surely, they realized that six months away from the majority of their family was unfair. I am well aware that it is unfair of me to say this is unfair. But the facts are facts: I miss them.

On the flip side, like every member in our clan, I want them to spend their retirement in paradise. They have worked their entire lives for this. I loved witnessing their excitement as they prepared to get to Florida before the bad weather arrived here. In that respect, I am happy for them and tremendously thankful that they are healthy enough to be doing it all.

Believe me, I know I can’t have it both ways.

Perhaps some of my sadness stems from the realization that my parents don’t need us anymore. Or maybe they decided that it was finally time for their kids not to need them anymore. All I know for sure is it was another transition I didn’t want to make. Change has never been easy for me.

My sister, whose move was also to Florida, tells me it’s time that we shared our parents. Perhaps that’s true, but I won’t pretend I’m not sad when I think that Christmas Day will come and they won’t be here.

The hustle and bustle of all of us meeting up at one of our houses to share in the festivities will happen without them. When it’s time to sit down to a nice, home-cooked meal, two more chairs at the table will be empty. The grandkids won’t see their Mema and Papa and we “big” kids won’t get to share in the delight of having our parents around us. It definitely will not be the same.

But if I know my family, the texts will be flying on Christmas morning. And while I will surely be wiping away tears they can’t see, I’ll once again “suck it up” and participate in our exchange of words, photos, laughs and, most importantly, love.

If my parents are happy, then I am happy. And that will have to be enough for me this Christmas.