Another year is ending and my review of accomplishments is depressing. I need to jog 775.9 miles today to reach my annual goal. I have cruised through the 0.9 miles on the treadmill but need to take a break to preserve my string of 861 consecutive daily Blog postings. The good news is that my wife is as far behind as I am. For Christmas 2017, I gave her a card authorizing a Christmas remodel since we had a broken dishwasher, only two burners working on the stove top, and an oven/microwave unit that only works sporadically and never at the same time. The kitchen cabinets are also a mess so I parlayed this disaster into a lazy man’s unromantic gift of the sleeves out of my vest. And it keeps on giving because I was able to re-gift it for Christmas 2018. And I already have the same card ready for 2019! The one goal we both achieved in 2018 was the most important one. We both stayed alive for all 365 days. Despite the degree of difficulty, we have resolved to accomplish it again in 2019.
On December 21st, I wrapped a big box with a double weighted blanket inside. Such blankets allegedly are calming for people who are anxious or have autism. We recently realized that our fourteen year old grandson might benefit from one since he heaps on multiple blankets every night. It happened to be Christmas season when we purchased one, so I was wrapping it up as a gift. We also gave him a football for the beach. Others have the fun of gifting him with legos and video games. Even so, it was difficult to wrap up a blanket while thinking of my reaction if I received one when I was in high school. In junior high, I did get deodorant in my stocking but that was welcome because I overheard a conversation my parents had at the foot of the stairs to my bedroom. My Mom was telling my Dad that she would handle “it” like her own mother did when she put deodorant in my Mom’s Christmas stocking. The “it” was obviously body odor. And receiving deodorant in my stocking was such a better alternative than having my Dad initiate another one of those awkward father/son talks I dreaded.
Before Christmas, I was on an email chain where family members were making clever fun of fruitcake. I am actually the one person in our family who loved all the fruitcake my parents would get in the holiday season. No one else would eat it, so I could take my time polishing it off. I crave sweets but have also always loved nuts, fruits, and especially dried fruits. I have eaten raisins daily for over forty years and love spumoni ice cream. Fruitcake traditions seem to survive now as more of a joke. My brother Kevin and his friend Rich once made a batch in college and delivered them on Christmas Eve to girls they fancied. They left shells on the nuts without any fear that the fruitcakes would actually be eaten. I was appalled at the desecration and waste of such a delicacy. Fruitcake is so rich, dense, and caloric that it could take me until February to get through a Christmas stash. As my metabolism slowed and my eating habits improved, I was able to live through Christmas without missing fruitcake. Several years ago I bought some mini versions made by monks and I gifted them to my siblings and others for Christmas. After reading the email chain referenced above, I realize that was a big mistake!
I am always amazed at the poor quality of my junk mail. For fifteen years my middle son has been receiving AARP, Medicare, and retirement home advertisements at my address. He never permanently resided here and was in his 20’s when the mailings started. Perhaps he was investigating ways to get us into assisted living and take over our house. Or maybe he was running a scam using our address. I never inquired because I wanted plausible deniability. Our address is popular with solicitors who send us address labels for former residents and dead relatives who never lived here. I have never sent one penny to anyone gifting me with address labels but still they arrive with the regularity of night time cravings to visit the restroom. I now use them on both the front and back of every letter. I am increasing to three per letter in 2019 before they suffocate me. If I go three days without receiving address labels, I file an investigation inquiry with the post office. I donated to the Campaign for Equal Justice many years ago because I wanted strong legal advocacy programs for the marginalized who might be running scams using the address of a parent. The original solicitation came via the Washington State Bar Association where I am a member. I wrote and signed the check but all future mailings come to Mollie Stamper, Esq., as if she is the attorney. She is more capable of practicing law than I am but they cannot possibly know that. Why am I even getting junk snail mail when electronic junk mail is so much more efficient?
My oldest son wrote a Christmas book when he was eight years old. I was reading it the other day when attending a party at his house. It was bound in cardboard and I think it was titled Santa in Space. What caught my eye were the four pages before the story even began. He included a Table of Contents for the Chapters and a Dedication to all the children around the world who wait up for Santa Claus. But I was most surprised by the boilerplate language: “Copyright 1983. All rights reserved.” Apparently I did not find this unusual at the time because I did not remember it. He was my first child so I probably thought all kids were concerned with reserving their book rights. If I had known better, I would have started a law school tuition fund right then and not been surprised at all by his eventual career as a lawyer. I should talk to him about reserving rights and copyrighting my Blog posts but I do not think I can afford his billing rate.
Christmas now droops like a lingering band aid. We usually lack the resolve to shed it quickly. When my wife and I were young, we left the tree up into February on several occasions because it looked better than the ratty furniture we owned. And we thought it made us look interesting and hip. When children surrounded us, it seemed irresponsible to ignore the fire hazard. We still left the outside lights up. We made it to June one year when we lived in Wichita. Since the lights survived halfway to the next Christmas, I thought I was safe in my delight that I would not have to put up lights the next winter in the freezing cold. But some non hip co-workers spoiled that dream by horrifying my wife with their mockery. Down came the lights. When I was a teenager, the outside lights once made it to Spring, aided by Wisconsin snow cover and my incredibly distracted parents. My surprise plan of turning the lights on for Easter evoked the same horror from my mother as my wife displayed in the Wichita episode. As we waddle through old age, Christmas lingering is becoming more a sign of fatigue than hipness.
I recently read a piece by a woman who was frustrated when her perfect Christmas plans were ruined by an unexpected illness and a stranded family member. The inconveniences grated on her until she had an epiphany when remembering the circumstances of the first Christmas. We celebrate a baby being born in a stable during a long hard journey that was not a perfect plan. Except that it was. All my failed attempts to orchestrate a perfect Christmas have not been failures after all. I just was not paying close enough attention.
My friend Marel sent me a Christmas card where the baby Jesus in the manger is telling St. Joseph, “You are not my real father!” My sister Mary emailed a card with the Angel at the manger turning away the fourth Wiseman because he was bearing the gift of fruitcake. Those flippant images made me laugh. They give me the mischievous idea to complain that this Christmas season has been filled with daily Advent wreath readings, Sunday Masses and Children’s Liturgies of the Word, Giving Tree donations, Tuesday Christmas Pageant practices, Wednesday Faith Formation classes, an Immaculate Conception Holy Day Mass, Our Lady of Guadalupe procession and celebration, a Reconciliation service, and now a Christmas Eve Children’s Mass. All this religious stuff is crowding out time for the truly important Christmas traditions of hitting the Mall and going to wild parties. I have run out of time. I need to find a 7-11 Mini Mart that is open somewhere so I can do my Christmas shopping.
My wife created magnet signs that say “clean” and “dirty.” You supposedly attach the “clean” sign to the dishwasher when you start it and trade it with the “dirty” sign after unloading the dishwasher. But nobody remembers to change the signs on a regular basis. Some households can probably tell if the dishes are clean just by looking at them. Unfortunately our crummy dishwasher often makes cleaned dishes still look dirty. Last Monday, I found both magnets attached to the dishwasher door. They are probably both accurate. But they paralyze me. Not only do I not know what to do with the dishes in the dishwasher, I do not know if I should go on a rant about wanting to abandon the system altogether. But that would be like my crazy plan to stop brushing my teeth because they keep getting extracted by the dentist anyway. So I have been using paper plates this week. We ran out of them. So I added them to the list stuck on the refrigerator magnet. My wife keeps forgetting that list when she goes shopping or she forgets whether she already replenished the paper plates but forgot to scratch it off the list. I would go to the grocery store myself but I am not allowed to do that or to touch the washer and dryer. I am authorized to use the toaster oven but I am scared because it has no magnet sign to remind me to turn it off.
Socrates said that it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit an injustice. At least I think he said that. His quotes are all Greek to me. He had the arrogance not to use plain English. He was not much for democratic elections so would probably be on the side of voter suppression today. The United States formally suppressed women voters for over a century. Minority suppression is always a favorite as well as suppression based upon political party. I just want to be the one to determine who gets suppressed. I wonder if Socrates got to choose any of the 500 Athenian citizens who voted on his death sentence. He could not complain because he believed it better to suffer an injustice than commit one as noted above. But those are two horrible choices. I could state that murder by a swig of hemlock is better than burning at the stake. But what does that do for me? I want more choices.