“It’s the Hap-Hap-Happiest time of the year” goes the song, and that might be true for many, but not really for the Dog and his family. This year my sister’s lovely Boxer has a brain tumor that is causing massive seizures for the poor dog. L. is going to do the right think by her dog and have her put to death by injection, right before the holidays. In talking to her the Dog said that it was always a drag when bad things happen at this time of year. L responded by saying “Yeah, but it is not like we don’t have the experience to deal with it”, at that moment it hit the Dog that this time of year has sucked much, much more often than it hasn’t in his family.
This is not hyperbole or self pity but a real and true fact. Worse (depending on your outlook) it is a multigenerational thing. Grandpa H. was your prototypical Irishman. He was charming, surprisingly well informed for someone with no education, and an alcoholic. At this time of year he was pretty much always drunk and would use that social insight that was the basis of his charm to make the cruelest cuts of all to any within range.
As you might suspect, Mom’s Christmas’s were not very…Currier and Ives. She was determined that her kids would never have those kind of bad Christmas’s, though we did visit the Grandparents, so we had plenty of exposure to M.’s wrath. Sadly it also made Mom hypersensitive to when things were not going “perfectly” and so we kids also had our share of yelling at by and to our parents at this time of year.
If that were all, well, the Dog thinks that this might have been pretty normal, all things told. However, the Holiday time of year seems to be the same time that all major bad news and occurrences happen. Cousin John was 14 when in the week after Thanksgiving he tried to restart a fire by throwing a cup of gasoline on it. The resulting fireball left him with burns over 2/3 of his body, including all the skin on his face. He lived, but has been horribly scared and had to spend that and the next Christmas at Shiners Hospital in effort that saved his life and rehabbed him.
It was in the second week of December when Cousin Timmy drank 14 rum and cokes then drove across the line on the highway to kill not only himself, but the father of three little children. During the next two weeks my Fathers Mom died, and then his brother Kenny. Needless to say that was a kind of down Christmas.
It was in early December when Mom and Dad decided that they could no longer be together and would have to separate and divorce. That was the same year that Aunt Dorothy was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer on the 17th of December.
December is the month that Dad was told that he had less than six weeks to live, the cigarettes that he had quit seven years before had done their damage and his lungs and heart were riddled with cancer. It is kind of odd but the same time the year before Mom had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She beat it, Dad lost his battle with cancer.
This year we are dealing with Lucy (L.’s dog) and the doctors are gearing up for a lot of tests on Mom, she is having dizzy spells and it has them thinking low level strokes and other very bad news. So, the Dog’s sister is right, we do have a lot of experience dealing with bad news and holidays at the same time, but that is not why the Dog is telling you all of this.
After talking to L. it occurred to the Dog that there were a lot of people that did not have the lesson of our lives to take them through this season. All around us there are folks that, like Mom, want this time of year to be something that is perhaps unobtainable. It is as if they believe that for these three weeks or so real life should be put on hold. That nothing of the everyday struggles should infringe. The problem is that it makes the expectations of the holidays far, far too high, which leads to a major let down when they can not meet those expectations.
The Dog and his family have a trouble spot around this time of year. It seems that more often then not we are dealing with major pain and that makes the expectation lower. It is what lets this time of year be enjoyable at all. In the years where we are not facing a crisis, we are able to relax, be together and have that time for recharging. In the crisis years, well, we are not expecting to be free of trouble, so it is not so devastating when there are issues to face.
It is just this that the Dog wants to say, to everyone, enjoy what you have, while you have it. If this is a year of crisis for your family, then handle the crisis and forget keeping up with the Joneses. The kids that live through these crisis years will be stronger adults for the fact that they know there can be trouble but a family handles it, regardless of the time of year. If this is a year without trouble, don’t try to make it a shining example, it is just luck that problems are not at the door, and so you should not push to have “the Best Christmas Ever!!!”, instead, have the holiday you would have if all things were just average.
You could think that the problems that the Dog’s family endures would make him hate this time of year, and some years that is very true, but this year, even with Mom and Lucy being on the trouble list, he would just hope that there are those that have less problems and can enjoy whatever holiday this have at this time.
Love your families, for their faults if you can, enjoy your friends and their families, take what joy you can while you can, because you will want to remember this year in those years when things will not be just fine. Be good to yourselves as well as your families and that is about the best that any of us can do.
Happy Chanukah, Bright Solstice, Merry Christmas, Hearty Saturnalia, Happy Kwanza and here is a wish that all of us are healthy, happy, wise and together in the New Year.