Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Thoughts on Christmas

Cold Winter sun breaking through the clouds on the plains of Montana near Lame Deer

This is another story I post every year. I change the modern day facts, but the deeper story presented here is the same message that I always send to you, yes you. Last night was an amazing celestial event. The Winter Solstice, the Full Moon and a total Lunar Eclipse took place on the same night. This hasn't happened since 1703 and won't again for hundreds of years.

I had the extreme honor to attend a Sweat Lodge ceremony last night, amidst all this cosmic activity, that seemed to lift and propel our collective prayers to new heights. The Peace evident to us was astronomical, no pun intended at all, as our hearts soared in the presence of the Spirits that we called from the rocks, trees and animals. The deer that walked into the yard, the woodpecker. Even geese, flying low and squawking loudly, passed over head. The sky was cloudy and we didn't see any of what we knew to be happening in the heavens above, but that was okay. We knew it was there and we all felt the power of the Universe within ourselves.

Early morning light on the trees, heavily laden with hoarfrost

So, here is my story and recollections of a time long ago. It was around Christmastime. Barb flew to Chicago. We we had moved from the Chicago area to Minnesota in 1974, just a few years earlier. Our youngest daughter, Jayne, was only a little over three months old and nursing. Barb took her with on the plane. I stayed at home with the other girls, Maggie was four and Alyssa was close to two years old.
Barb’s Dad, Ed, was in the hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer in May of 1977. Now it was December and he was dying. The doctors said there is nothing further that they could do for him. 
He got the cancer from asbestos. Ed was a pipe fitter and worked around the asbestos wrappings on heating and cooling pipes for all of his adult life. He was only 54 and was dying from the poisons of the workplace. The hazard of working in his trade that the corporation didn’t tell anyone about. Imagine going to work and being slowly poisoned.
Barb was at her Father’s bedside and told him it was all right to let go. It is all right not to want to be in pain any longer. She understood and wouldn’t blame him for leaving this world as she knew he had to.
He passed, and walked on as peacefully as possible given the circumstances, and Barb made arrangements to get home and be with the rest of us for Christmas. She was determined to be together with her husband and children for Christmas, even though she experienced this terrible loss of her beloved Father.
This air conditioner quietly awaits the heat and humidity of Summer

We were waiting for her at the airport. We couldn’t afford to fly down with her, and the added burden of me and the children, who needed her attention, would have been a distraction she didn’t need as she attended to her Father’s bedside, preparing to leave this world.
Her Mother didn’t want her to leave. Ed had died and now there was the wake and funeral. All the arrangements and the visits of friends and family. But Barb had to go. Her family was waiting for her. It was Christmas Eve.
Usually, Christmas Eve was spent at home with Barb, me and the kids. We had a tradition that we started when we began having children. We never thought we’d be dealing with a death in the family at Christmas. And now we had a third daughter. Jayne was born in September. This was her first Christmas. Our routine would be to go to the lot where they had been selling trees for the past couple of months. We’d go there after it got dark and the tree sales were over for the year. We’d grab a leftover tree ala Charlie Brown’s Christmas. You know, the scraggly one that no one would buy? That’s the one we brought home. 
It didn’t cost anything to get a tree this way. We’d get it and bring it home and did the decorating on Christmas Eve. Barb would make homemade pizza from scratch. We would have a large table of snacks like cheese and crackers, pickled herring, little sandwiches made from Genoa salami and cream cheese. There were cookies and candies and pickle wraps and shrimp, if we could afford them. And those little smokies wrapped in crescent rolls and olives, both black and green.
The children wish you Peace

As we grazed on the food and ate hot slices of Sicilian style deep dish pan pizza, we put the ornaments and the lights on the tree. Music in the background from the stereo. Sometimes, we even played Christmas carols. Tinsel, and sometimes we’d string popcorn. The plastic lighted angel sat on top. We called him Harold, as in Hark, The “Harold” Angels Sing. We always laughed. The children wondered if Santa would bring them presents. When we put up the tree and decorated it. there were no presents there at all. They were all hidden and the children never saw the wrapped packages in the rafters of the garage. This scene played out in households across the land.
Our tradition was based on a simple ideal. The family was to be together, and we showed love, tenderness and generosity to each other while remembering that there are those that might be considered less fortunate than ourselves. We make sure the Spirit of God, as we understand Him, is present in our lives.
Santa would be left a plate of cookies and a glass of milk and the children would go to bed. I always rolled up a big fatty and put it next to the plate with the cookies after the kids went to sleep. I tell you, those cookies and that milk was gone by Christmas morning, every time.
A frosted buffalo skull greets all visitors at The Cabinette

After the children were all snug in their beds, or bed as financial decree would have it some years, we’d place gifts under the tree. Wrapped in comics from the Sunday paper. Foil wrapped for those that came from Grandma and Grandpa. Tons of stuff. Some years saw bicycles and guitars, some years there were just cheap toys. Like everyday life, Christmas was a feast or famine from one year to the next. I don’t think the kids new it any different from year to year. We did when we didn’t have the shrimp.
The plane landed and we were waiting at the gate. We all hugged and walked to the car. We stopped off at an open convenience store and bought a frozen pizza on the way home. It was around 9:00 PM, Christmas Eve.
That year, 1977, we came home and there was no tree. The decorations hadn’t even been brought up from the dusty shelves in the basement. There were no snacks. But we did have the frozen pizza. We had a large potted plant in the living room. It was a a schefflera or something like that. It was pretty good size. We got the stuff up out of the basement and decorated that house plant as we ate the pizza. We were all together. My God how I wish we could all be together again. Always a family member missing, always something gone awry. 
But that year, 1977, we were together. The children had lost one of their Grandpas, but they didn’t know it in their consciousness. Maybe their spirits knew that something was different. But we did what we do at Christmas and decorated the house plant tree and had some food to eat. Santa came that night and put gifts around the terra cotta planter. I’m sure I got stoned. Back in the 70’s I did a lot of that.
This year, 2010, our tree was given to us by a friend that bought one, then was given one. He called me and asked if I’d want the spare tree in his front yard. I went and got the tree and found it to be beautiful, and for more reasons than the price tag. We brought it home last weekend and have been slowly putting lights and decorations on it. We’ll finish the job when we are all together on Christmas Eve.
Mrs. Spadoman and I will be here, along with my daughter and the Grandkids that live here with us. My other daughter will join us and we’ll make those sought after home made pizzas. 
We’ll graze once again on a table filled with appetizers, sing songs, play games, watch special programs on TV and be together.
I know this isn’t the happiest Christmas story, and I risk getting a reputation of being a pot head, but this was Christmas in 1977. And lately, this seems to be the theme in many places. Many people are saying that they aren’t enjoying Christmas. There are many reasons out there, each person feeling their own way around the holidays. There will be other stories here, and on other blogs, as the years roll by, but for now, bear with me and my recollection, these stories must be told as well.
Yes, Christmas of 1977 was painful, and since 1991, when our own daughter perished from this world, more pain, sustained pain, by all affected here in Spadoville. 

But I read other blogsites and find out there are people who do nothing for themselves and go out and try to put cheer and joy in the lives of others. 

I know of a blog friend who suffered last year from her daughter’s illness with cancer. I know someone who had a son in Iraq and wishes he could be home, but wishes more that he be still alive. This year, the daughter and soldier are gone, but there is other suffering that took these places in the lives of others.

Countless families around the world dealing with the losses of life and wounds from stupid wars. Residents of New Orleans, still reeling from hurricane Katrina,  and all over the world, homeless this Christmas. Hungry, homeless, and with no prospect of improvement. The list of atrocities goes on and on. People suffering all the year long, not just now in this season. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that fills the lives of so many. I hurts to think about it, but think we must so as to do what we can to avoid the same mistakes and inhumanity in the future.
This year, 2010 is no different. The beat goes on. The wars still rage. Hatred is evident all over. More cancer and sickness. Peace is a distant thought.
All of us have had a sad time of it somewhere along the line. I guess I want my readers to know I have felt pain and I wish no pain for you this season or anytime. The joy you are to glean is that which tells you I understand and wish you the best. For thirty-some years later than that sad Christmas in 1977, this one is just as much a blessing. We have healthy Grand children and our soon to be ex son-in-law still has his cancer in remission. And although the years after have taken Barb’s Mom, my Dad and our first born daughter Maggie in 1991, as well as my Mother last February, we’re still here and put one foot in front of the other.

However you greet this time of year. Whatever celebration you adhere to. Even if you don’t acknowledge anything other than the passing of a new day, let peace bless every one of you. My prayers are for the health and happiness of the people.
I express this sentiment I have for each and every one of you by saying the words Merry Christmas.
Peace to All

Mitakwe Oyasin

9 comments:

Jeannie said...

It's a beautiful story. Those years of struggle seem to make the better times more poignant and sweet. We celebrate the love we have and have had.

Merry Christmas!

rebecca said...

you have taken me every step of the way...from this year to that. from each loved one here and each so sadly gone.
just now as dawn lifts the darkness on a new day i have walked beside you. the stars have softened but stayed.....because dear friend, when i walk beside you the stars rain....for the peace and splendor of it all.

thank you for pulling up a chair and asking me to come in out of the cold. and always leave in peace.

love to you spadoman and your dear family....

moderate said...

God bless you and yours, Brother. Peace.

Mel said...

k.....I read this morning and got misty eyed.
I come back this evening, read rebecca's comment--and I'm right there again.

Yaknow--it's hard.
But it's joyous and bittersweet--all of it.

I don't know, sir. I wouldn't have missed having those people in my life for the world, but I miss them and my world is transformed by the loss....as I'm sure is yours.
We keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing the deal--trying to pass on some of the love, some of the lessons....some of the joys.

There's still holes in my heart. I'm thinking there will always be--but G-d's gracious and puts people in my path that shine a bit of light into those holes and fill me with their genuine care and concern (and probably love, truth be told--though I'm hesitant to take the liberty to name it).
I think He's taken good care of me--I think He's taken good care of lots of us.

((((((((((((( Spadoman ))))))))))))

I wish you peace, much joy, abundant blessings.... and love.

Christopher said...

Thank you, Spadoman. I never leave this site feeling depressed, angry, ill-tempered or aggressive. Quite the contrary. This is a great gift you have. Would that you could deploy it further.

Happy Christmas. Happy 2011. Keep the uplift coming!

Peace

Stephanie said...

with tears in my eyes I wish you a happy time with your family...and your memories.

merry christmas and peace to you too

x..x

mig said...

Thank you 'Man.
It gives me greater hope for peace that there is someone like you who never gives up and chooses always to speak out for peace and kindness and the spiritual in the world.
Peace to you too.
((((((('Man)))))))

Paula Scott said...

A moving and heartfelt story, my friend.

"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

I will try not to call you a 'pothead'!

But even with the pain of what life has for us in this moment and what it has brought to us in the past, it is all very much so the fabric of life. We cannot separate and cast away those threads that are painful, or all is unraveled. Christmas Day represents the hope that we should all have in our hearts. And being joyful in the fact that there is a promise of redemption. Without that, well, I can't even begin to imagine.

Mele Kalikimaka!
Peace Be With You...

Noelle Renee said...

Joe,
I hear the story of a very loving and faithful husband and father who, regardless of the sadness and the vicissitudes of life, both economic and physical, managed to maintain stable and significant traditions for his children and hold his family together despite much grief and many losses. I hear the story of a man who has deep and profound compassion for the suffering of others who feel alone and abandoned at a time of year when everyone is supposed to "put on happy". I know an old soul with depths of wisdom named Spadoman and I learn something from him every time I come over here. Thanks for sharing the love, Joe. I offer it back to you. I am without family on Christmas. I usually spend it alone, but a friend invited me this year. So it is nice to connect with folks like you, who make me remember that there are fathers out there who love their children.
Peace and blessings at Christmas,
Noelle