This was the time of year when Charlie Brown’s television special came on. As a little kid, I put on my pajamas and stayed up to watch, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.”
….And I remember it well.
Pretty soon, the decorations will change from Halloween to Thanksgiving. I like that …but then again, I like to eat, so any holiday based on food is a good one.
I never grew up with Christmas. I was on the other team, so to speak, and the other kids would tell me, “Santa doesn’t go to your house because you’re Jewish.”
And because I was Jewish, we never decorated our home. We had a Menorah (That’s the thing with the candles) but we never had a Christmas Tree. There were no socks hung by the fireplace with care—not that we had a fireplace, and there was no tinsel either. There were no ornaments, no lights, just a Menorah.
…..I always wanted a Christmas Tree.
I wanted the lights. I wanted the tinsel and the ornaments. I wanted nightfall to come so I could sit by the tree with a cup of hot chocolate and watch television.
Though beautiful, the holiday season is a heavy time. We recognize the empty spaces in the room and remember those we lost over the years. Perhaps, we struggle with our own loneliness. We consider the paths we chose and lace them with regret. And while the holiday season is beautiful, its beauty will often sting.
I believe grieving is a strange process. This is the time of year I remember The Old Man more than usual. I remember our last Thanksgiving together and the time he visited the farm.
He told me, “You look good, kid.”That meant a lot to me…
Aside from what I was doing to myself, The Old Man struggled with my appearance. My hair was long and hung over my face. My eyes always seemed to be at half mass, and my jaw fell slightly open.
“That shit is gonna kill you,” He’d say. The Old Man hated when I walked. He hated that I dragged my feet and he’d shout, “Pick up your goddamn feet!”
Then he’d tell me, “You’re frying your brain with that shit….that’s why you walk like that!”
When The Old Man arrived on the farm he noticed I was dressed neatly. He saw that my hair was cut short. He was happy that I spoke clearly and not through my teeth. The fog in my head had lifted enough that when I spoke, I no longer sounded as if I was high.
He said, “This place is gonna be good for you,” which it was. It was also the last time I saw The Old Man before his heart attack…
For years, I thought I was supposed to hold onto the grief. I believed I was supposed to keep the pain fresh like an open wound. But time is healing, and over the years, my broken heart began to mend.
I still miss The Old Man. I still think of him often and I use the lessons he taught me to become a better person.
After my legal troubles came to judgment, The Old Man drove me from the courthouse. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You know I’m not mad at you anymore, right?”
He told me, “I never was…I just didn’t want to see you kill yourself.”
With all the love he could show, The Old Man explained, “You’re my son and I just want the best for you.”
Two years ago, the wife and I picked up our first Christmas tree. We hung lights and wrapped the tree with ornaments and tinsel. We hung socks along the banister of our staircase, and of course, everyone had their own sock with their a names written in silvery-blue sparkles on the white fluffy top.
But I did not forget who I was or where I came from. And beneath the lights that strung across my front window, we put our Menorah.
……I think The Old Man would have liked that