This is the time of year we usually share memories of Christmases past as we deal with this holiday season. We have already watched a few of our favorite “r/x” movies. “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Carol” (the 1951 Alistair Sim version). It was fun, in the moment, viewing those classics, but the feel-good vibes didn’t linger.
This, I suspect, is the winter of discontent for many of us. I think of my fellow retirees, those deep into double-digit years of retirement. The “golden years” myth disappeared long ago. The celebratory wine now is cheap hooch as we absorb the first year of the White House tenant and his minions. How would Charles Dickens begin chapter one of this historical piece?
It was the worst of times….
We’re bombarded with holiday TV specials, new age Carols I don’t recall, sung by smiley faces I don’t recognize. The nightly network news/24 hour cable news are relentless with “Dr. Strangelove” breaking news tweets, apocalyptic natural disasters involving every country on the planet, and daily offerings of mass shootings. The news outlets usually give us a “kicker” story with a Hollywood happy ending. I don’t find myself smiling.
As I write, I find myself in a Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey moment wondering how it went so sour. I know I’ve made my share of mistakes on the home front but they hardly seem deserving to be one of the usual suspects in this turgid real life melodrama.
Our furry kids — Bonnie, Gibbs, and Duke seem oblivious to the scenario. They’re waiting for Santa Claus, sure their dreams of mammoth offerings of biscuits and other treats will be waiting for them when the Big Guy drops by our house.
The dogs are our comedy central. They make us smile and laugh in the middle of our anger and, yes, self-pity. I can feel the “woe is me” heavy on my shoulders as I write. I’d like to think I’m not alone in my whining.
When our world was young, I never took time to see or hear what my parents were doing during this time of year. I didn’t see my Mother grimace as she pored over the bills, the annoying phone calls from the bad bank people and others asking for past due payments. I didn’t really pay attention to my Dad’s exasperation over where the hard-earned pay from his two jobs went. I didn’t see the anger on his face or frustration in his voice because I was too busy pestering them about the stuff I wanted from Santa Claus. After all, what I wanted was really the most important issue. That much was clear to me.
One December evening, I recall my Mom biting her lip, reaching for patience and calmly telling me, “Garry, one day when you’re a man, you’ll understand why your Father and I seem so short with you. You’ll see. I just hope I’m around to see how you handle things.”
I thought Mom was kidding with me, putting me off about my toys list. Adult stuff which didn’t make sense to me. Mom and Dad were always quietly — or so they thought — arguing about how they could pay for essentials and take care of me (and later, my two younger brothers) and my not-so-secret Santa list.
I’d usually shrug them off. It was just boring parent stuff, I reasoned, then sneaked off to listen to my radio shows. Off with my heroes of yesteryear, The Lone Ranger, Sgt. Preston, Superman, The Shadow, others, I was oblivious to the real world problems of my parents.
All was calm, all was right.
Mom isn’t here to see how I deal with things now. Neither is Dad. They’d probably grin at all my soul-searching and “why me?” queries.
I’ll never know how many bleak Christmases Mom and Dad endured while making sure everything was good for me and my brothers. Kids never know. If they’re lucky, as we were, it’s a Walt Disney world with no grumbling about the state of our nation. No awareness about how bad hombres are in charge of our ship of state.
Marilyn and me, in a much lesser role, will try to make Christmas 2017 a happy time for our family. Marilyn is already busy with tonight’s dinner. Tomorrow’s festive dinner is in progress. She feels much the way I do about this Christmas but carries the major load in keeping us afloat, including taking of me. That’s her year round gift to me.
Marilyn isn’t Clarence but she’s long overdue for wings. Wait! Don’t I hear a distant bell?