Not always for All
A belated merry Christmas season to you my beloveds, I pray this period has found you in good spirits. That there in the midst of all the trimmings and what with all, you have discovered your every good hope realized. May God bless you and keep you. My hope is you’ve found peace, joy, and love in union with the Holy Spirit during this exhilarating and festive time of year. Also, and if there is such a thing, a bunch of low cal. gingerbread cookies in your stockings. But let’s not forget that kick butt present nestled under the Christmas tree as well.
It’s that time of the year again where recollections from childhoods past hold sensations of awe and exhilaration. Torn and crumpled wrapping paper litter the floor as echoes of laughter and clamoring toys strain the limits of mornings comfort. Where, for an elder generation, cheery carols and melancholy melodies convey jovial rhythms from colossal old radios. And a time when crazy uncles & cousins randomly popped by, adding a more fun loving experience to the holiday. Numerous memories draw to mind as I rap on the keys of a beat-up laptop to deliver this message of good will. As well as a glimpse into a reality I fear far too many of us share during this holiday season. Thus I write in the hope you won’t walk away from this with too heavy a heart, because I don’t… well, not entirely. You see, next to all the regalia I’ve described, there is a truth to this season that perhaps many of us don’t even care to remember much less admit.
Imagine if you will, a tree decked out and decorated in all its grandeur. Vibrant orbs reflecting multicolored flashing lights, seemingly keeping beat to the music. An assortment of miniature figurines and delicious candy canes lavishly hang from their respective bows. And tidy wrappings which imitate the scent of pine are neatly tucked beneath that green monolithic marvel of shimmering tinsel. Now pan out, and picture a young (yet strikingly handsome) boy staring intently into all of this, lying belly down on a loveseat with arms crossed under his chin and propped over the armrest. Daydreaming, engulf by lights and lost in what appears to be a blissful fascination of Christmas wonder.
This momentary bliss however is not as magnificent as it may appear. Truth is… the lad’s thoughts are clouded with dark uncertainty. And in a small way, hopes it’s an anxiety other children must certainly share. Then at least this would imply his family isn’t alone in its heaviness, circling the outskirts of imagined happiness’.
I suppose it was near the age of about 11 or 12 years when I could tell something wasn’t right about the world in which we existed. Especially around Christmas time there seemed to be an indistinguishable sadness in the air and at that age, it was a gloom I couldn’t shake much less able to put a finger on. The memory of this particular time also caries the helpless feeling of an inability to give our parents the peace I believed they deserve. They strove to give us kids the best upbringing they possibly could and for the most part, did a damn good job. Despite their efforts however, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in sensing the heaviness in their hearts. One could tell they wanted to do and provide more than they were able. And as a point of fact in my late teens, my mother confessed to me that she always wanted to give us kids our very own play and swing set, but alas could never afford it.
So when Christmas morning came, it wouldn’t matter if you did or didn’t get what you wished or asked Santa for, you would act as though you got everything and more, and became good at it. Although most times we didn’t have to pretend, we were dearly blessed just the same.
It was a time of transitioning in our lives as children. There weren’t as many arguments or physical violence between my parents as in the past since they no longer drank as regularly, but there was still the odd occasion. Therefore there was yet the possibility of heated banter escalating to blows following the revelry and howls of joy. I was sure chances were slim though of my aunt crashing into the tree again, crushing gifts along in her wake.
Then again, many of those parties were rather fun and some even went without incident. Sometimes we didn’t have to clean up empty and broken beer bottles the next morning. Because for the most part, the folks would restrain themselves for our sakes in regards to the fighting and mess during Christmas. I say for the most part because in one instance I’m told, dad tried to destroy some of our gifts in a drunken rage. Thankfully mother, along with their friends, was able to stop him before too much damage occurred.
As little ones we would dance for relatives and their friends who would throw money at our feet. And back then, an energetic jig fetched many a trip to the candy store. Then of course there was our trio, the youngest of six who would sneak beer from time to time. I alone on the other hand, didn’t have to steal much alcohol at Christmas. Ever since I could remember, and much to my mothers’ chagrin, dad would get me drunk every Christmas Eve. Oh I’m sure it started with just a little beer at first. But I do recall one year sitting beside him on the edge of their bed with my feet barely touching the floor, sharing shots of Canadian Club whiskey. All the while staring at the floor as he lessoned me on what it takes to be a man, looking up every so often into those glossy eyes… if only to appear interested in his words.
Notice how I said “feet barely touching the floor”? Talk about starting young! I liked it though, it made me feel special. In addition, I was always good for a laugh to my sisters as they had to care for me or pick me up off the floor when I’d fall from the top bunk. (Hahahaha, good times, good times.)
Kids huh… Isn’t it generally true that small children haven’t a judgmental bone in their bodies? Often times demonstrating more unconditional love than they ever could, or even would as adults. Regardless the amount of love, the quality of life or value of the gifts they receive. I believe this is why Jesus said that the kingdom belongs to those such as them.
Oh I know we’ve seen kids at times acting out and complaining about what they’ve received. However I’m sure you’d agree that there may have been some overcompensated love at play somewhere in their lives. But apart from that, I believe the innocence so pleasingly displayed by children emulates elegantly the biblical account prior to the eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And just as the forbidden fruit took hold of Adam and Eve, so also does that spirit take hold of us come a certain age. Consider possibly, roundabout the age in which our story takes place. (Hmmm)
Surprisingly enough and despite the early training I’ve described. I never did become alcoholic through adulthood, just simply a not so common “coca nut”. The term my eldest son expressed one day acknowledging my addiction. In which just recently the immensity of my disgrace has once again become evident.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s back up to a place where Christmas was no longer as much about the party and presents… but about the presences. The family gatherings during Christmas became more or less ideal as they should have been. As mentioned and into my early teens, the drinking and fighting between my parents became fewer and farther between. Eventually my mother quit drinking altogether and gave her life to Jesus. Not the catholic practice of Jesus on which we were raised mind you, but the personal and living Jesus.
I loved my mother so very much, she was a great woman. Better than my father deserved that’s for sure. She was the one who made certain we always had the best Christmas’ they could offer. Not to mention she made the tastiest turkey stuffing in the universe. Ya you heard me… the universe! The turkey itself however, well regrettably at most times would be a hit or miss on the moistness scale. (Sorry mom!) lol…
Unfortunately, Isabel Lee died of cancer just prior to Christmas about seventeen years ago, on the 13th of December. Then in relation to that unpleasant event, custody of my youngest son was also stolen from me by his mother. Subsequently I never did celebrate Christmas in the same way ever again. After that year…everything changed.
Likewise what I miss most are those exceptional moments with my kids, especially during this time of year. I am frequently haunted by the longing for their laughter amid smiles accompanied by eager kisses, which were plentiful when they were young. Yet at the same time troubled by the fact that whenever I dream of them, it is always of when they were little, and never as teenagers save once. This only serves to remind me of the shame I bear. Currently my eldest daughter has a son of her own and my sons, well… they’re men. But fear grips that I may never know them well as such.
You see, it wasn’t long before the previous Christmas when a heated discussion with my son John took place. He then blocked me on Facebook and wished no longer to speak with me. Now this year the same thing happened with my youngest son, though of a dissimilar dispute. A dispute in which he wasn’t even primarily involved other than the fact I asked him to give my grandson a hug and kiss on my behalf. For at the time I was feeling put off from seeing Brady for four months due to a busy schedule. The explanation which was given to me by Crystal and a position Daytona felt compelled to defend for his sister.
I don’t blame them however. They just feel I haven’t the right to ask for their time or speak to them as a father who’s been around their whole lives would. Yet I know not the words or manner in which to speak to them. They are still my children and my only wish is to see them make good choices. Well… that along with the opportunity to visit with my grandson.
So now here I sit, feeling all sorry for myself and such. Not exactly a condition someone who professes a strong faith should be engaged in. But I say to you right here, right now, it has nothing to do with faith. It simply has to do with missing my children. It has to do with the contemplation of past choices and the consequences which have arisen as a result.
On the other hand, we must realize that our children don’t truly belong to us. They are the Fathers and we are but stewards of them for a short time. So I know that those, who at one time were pleased to call me dad, will be properly provided for and protected by their one true Father. This knowledge stems on the basis that He promised this to me a long time ago, along with the fact I’ve heard and seen evidence of Him in their lives. Which is the real reason why I haven’t truly button down for them, or flew straight and towed the line as any other respectful lemming, er um… member of society would.
But one can’t help but to be saddened when indications point that your offspring have no desire to see you any longer because of your weaknesses, absences and lack of tact in conversations. And then to think of the way I’ve felt about my own father at times. From my mid teens on I’ve held feelings of disappointment and disgust toward him. There were also times I’d fantasize about his death. Even going so far as wishing for it to happen, wondering what was the point of his life anyway. These thoughts would occur periodically up until his manslaughter when I was 21. And no, I didn’t do it, lol. He may not have been the ideal model of human character but he wasn’t the worst either, he had his moments. He was my dad after all, and I loved him just the same. Consequently, however much or little I may have turned out to be like him, I can’t help but wonder how unlike the kids consider me.
OK, just imagine the scope of such feelings. Now apply that to the scores of homeless and addicted, as well as those who’ve overcome such situations. Regardless of those who believe we’re all just a bunch of uncaring and selfish deadbeats, sometimes the pain we bear is exactly what traps us in a continuous cycle of escape. We’re out there, and many may not even have the benefit of a personal relationship with God. For those who do… well just because we may accept Gods forgiveness, does not necessarily mean we are all able to forgive ourselves.
We all have our own stories and family skeletons, so perhaps some of you have an idea of what I speak. Christmas is one time of the year which serves to augment our memories and emotions more than most any other, be they good or bad. Then again, for countless members of society it happens to be a roller coaster of both. But for the purposes of this story, I would like you to keep in your hearts and minds the poverty stricken, the homeless as well as those removed from familiar notions of social and cultural norms.
Because I believe the Christmas season hits harder on us than any of you may realize. Evidence of this lies in the overabundance of fighting that has taken place at the drop-ins just prior to New Years. I’ve also been hearing the same words which reflect my own from friends on the street, “thank God Christmas is over”. Let me clarify something though, our reasons for stating that familiar phrase are not those expressed out of exhaustion and materialistic concern. Ours run much deeper than that.
I don’t mind telling you, the only circumstance which has made this season bearable over the years were caring friends who shared their family and friends. Yet therein lies precisely problem. It was “their” family and friends. Hence the years I’d fail to commemorate Christmas altogether, other than in the spirit of Christ’s birth. Some years I’d catch a mass, keeping in mind the gift God so graciously gave more than two thousand years ago. Then perhaps the lure of a turkey dinner along with a sock full of candy, razors and a toothbrush would draw my attention. Whatever treats and trinkets various charitable organizations happen to be handing out that year were always appreciated. Personally, this is just so as to not feel totally removed from everything and everyone.
This year as in those of several past, I had the opportunity to join a friend for Christmas but simply didn’t feel like pursuing that avenue. Also, a very sweet woman who doesn’t really even know me all that well, and volunteers at the Mustard Seed, generously offered me a place in her family’s festivities. Again I refused, irregardless of the great surprise and gratitude resulting of her offer. And although I appreciate this sort grace initiated by such heavenly hearts, it’s just not the same as one’s own family. Besides, the issues with my own kids have been lying heavy on me as of late.
There are a few other things I would like to mention, things that have been adding up in December besides the family unit dilemma. Silly things which on their own would be of no real consequence, but collectively has been fostering rage and resentment in my being that has no place being there. So perhaps what I’m saying is, please pray for me.
It begins with a job offer which when I showed up to work, the boss didn’t... for two days in a row. That first day I waited for three hours at a drop-in. Then he ended up hiring someone else after he turned up late the second day. For I had already left, and although we were previously acquainted, I had yet to obtain his phone number. After his performance though, perhaps it’s a good thing I not work with him anyway.
Secondly, a landlord & Tenant review board hearing with a housemate didn’t turn out at all as I expected. You see, this fellow has been a constant source of problems since his moving in about six or seven months ago. And in early November, he called me out and uttered death threats against me following my trying to get him to quiet down from one of his rants. To my surprise, he was permitted nearly two extra months to move. And this was after the landlord and I agreed to give him three weeks to vacate the premises rather than the customary two, or as in matters where death threats are concerned, an immediate 24-48 hours. In my mind I figure we were being generous as good Christians should. Heck in my mind, he’s lucky I didn’t have him charged, or as I most certainly would have done in the past… set the stage for his attempt to carry out that threat.
After months of such behavior on his part, that is about the extent I was able to exercise forgiveness. And I know I should be more accepting of the decision by the Board it being winter and all. But if the tables were turned… it is highly doubtful I would have received such generosity. Because I never have before and for a whole lot less. Huh, white people… ya I said it! (Lol) Oh common, just live a lifetime in my moccasins and you’d understand why I’d say such a silly thing. .
But let’s move on. You know those Christmas Bureau deals that come each year? Well I requested a food voucher as well as a gift for my grandson. Perhaps I didn’t get the gift but a grocery gift card did come in the mail. Another housemate said he’d seen it on the kitchen table, yet it disappeared before I returned home that day… go figure. From what I hear, a lot of people had gotten their gift cards stolen. So I’m not the only one who lost out that day, but it was $35 worth of groceries I could have used.
Now in this next case, please forgive my harshness but hear me out. One of my closest acquaintances of the past few years had blatantly hinted for months that they would get me a laptop for Christmas because mine is so old and has missing keys. It started two years ago simply because I noticed this person had an apple notebook which they didn’t use. Nor does this person even know how to use it… they can’t even set up an e-mail address for crying out loud, lol. So I offered to buy it but they didn’t want to part with it, which I can understand. You see, this person is a hoarder and the item in question came from ex flame.
So like I said, this was the Christmas before last and my hopes were high, I was excited come Christmas time. However I didn’t receive what this person had alluded to on more than one occasion. Which was fine, I got over it fairly easily because it is a big ticket item. And I am no stranger to disappointment after all.
Then this past year, the same thing happens again! For months this person continually said they’d get me one, if only just to make up for last year. But once again I allowed my hopes to be risen only to be dashed with the typical items everyone receives from the drop-ins anyway, and a couple dollar store trinkets. Damn it! I hate feeling cheated out of something I shouldn’t even truly expect in the first place. But as I said, they would continually mention it stating, “Just wait till Christmas… just wait till Christmas.”
I mean I could appreciate that this person is in the same boat financially as so many others. But on the other hand, I know this person, and knew they currently have money banked in the neighborhood of a couple to even a few thousand dollars. They’ve also been collecting checks from the government all the while as well. Then on top of that, is sitting on a mini lap-top they’re still not using. So ya, there was an expectation they’d might follow through with their promise this time. You know what… this person still hasn’t returned some of my belongings from when I was homeless. I requested them after I got my place but didn’t want to press the issue. That was over a year ago. Needless to say I’ve had just about enough of putting my faith in jeopardy with this person so probably won’t have anymore dealings with this “friend”. And not just for those reasons, there is more to it but that will have to be all ya get outta me in this respect.
Phew, I’m glad that part is over with. I was getting a little worked up there. I apologize for sounding like a whiny little bitch but hey, I’m still only human. And yes I can forgive this person and understand their personal issues. However, this does not mean I need to continually put up with that sort of crap. Would you?
Now for something you might find truly funny. You know how I told you I volunteered at a community garden over the summer? Well I won a piñata for having accumulated those most hours worked and I wanted to give it to my grandson and his aunt Jesse. But with all the things I had to bring to that side of town, it was just too much to carry on the bus so I just brought them what I could carry. And as mentioned earlier with scheduling visits, my daughter and her fiancé didn’t have the time (in four months) to come and pick up the items and presents I had for the family. So I decided to keep the piggy looking piñata for myself.
I was told it was filled with candy and small toys and it didn’t matter to me if the candy might have been stale or not, since it has been sitting in the corner of my room for nearly four months. I figured this way at least I’d have something to open on Christmas morning. Low and behold however, the pig was empty! HAHAHAHAHA! A guy just can’t catch a break can he, hahahaaha! But one saving grace was the delicious turkey dinner put by the Boyle Mcauley Plaza for the inner city & homeless. And that was my Christmas.
Then for New Years Eve, I left a party extremely early put on by the Mustard Seed because I ran into my uncle standing in line at the Hope Mission shelter and offered him a night’s stay at my place. I’m not supposed to have overnight guests, but thought I’d risk it for my uncle on such a bookmark evening. However, someone ratted me out, and so I received a chewing from the landlord. Keep in mind now the other housemate who I’ve mentioned and had to endure months of problems with, not to mention that death threat.
Because that is exactly what was going through my mind when I got right back into his face, defending the kindness I only wished to show to my uncle. It ended up with me trying to give him my thirty day notice but he wouldn’t accept it. Citing that it had to be handed in before the first of the month… this was only the third of January.
Sure I realize he was only trying to confer a warning according to house rules, but it was the way he did it and the tone in his voice that set me off. And besides, do you really think my frame of mind was of a tranquil state by this point? COMMON, GIVE YOUR HEADS A SHAKE PEOPLE! HAHAHAHA!... I wuv wou guys, Lol.
In wrapping this up, let me just say that I agree my words and actions do not always reflect those of a model Christian. And knee jerk reactions are what contribute to my exclusion from a so called “higher society”. However it is not my intention to seek such a ridiculous thing. That is for those who love their life and the things of this world (John12:25) I personally shall place my hopes and dreams towards the kingdom of heaven. Well that, plus the fact I am highly flawed. And like just everyone else, the problems of this world tend to get to me from time to time.
So I must apologize for my complaints in the latter half of this story. Because not only did I wish to convey how the Christmas season serves only as a reminder to many, especially for those on the street, of loved ones lost. But also just to share how hard it’s been for me personally this season. Don’t worry or have pity for me though. That is not my intention in writing this, and it’s probably best it took so long for me to post this story. This way the season is over and most of the pain has subsided. The Lord is my comfort.
I would also like to express my gratitude to places like the Mustard Seed as well as other charitable organizations. Places that provide warm drop-ins, hot meals and that community atmosphere. But most importantly, to the caring people who choose to take time out of their busy lives to work and volunteer at places like these. Such as the woman who was willing to open her home and family to me for Christmas. For that evening I was really feeling down and near the end of my rope. However her generous offer along with a simple $10 Tim Horton’s gift card truly brought me back from that precipice of sorrow, if only for a short time.
That’s all it really takes you know, for someone to show they care. A sincere love for the least of us can truly brighten somebody’s day or even save a life. That is what these places are all about you know. So please support you local shelter or drop-in. Drop in yourself and pass on some of that love which the Father has shown you. So come next year… hold in your hearts and in your prayers, those who are not as fortunate in having a family to share the season with. And if you happen to be counted among those, keep in mind the Lord your God… for He is the one true Father who will never leave you, nor will He forsake you.