A Terribleminds Christmas

I hold no illusions that anybody will come by to visit here today. Shit, it’s Christmas. You’re like me, you’re already balls deep (or vagina-deep, for the ladies) in a keg of egg nog. Woody bourbon to reaffirm your alcoholism, and refined white sugar to bolster your burgeoning diabetes. Merry Christmas to all, and to all an intervention and a handful of insulin shots.

Let us speak now of Christmas memories.

To keep the mood properly holly and jolly, let’s talk about the crappiest Christmas on record. I mean, for me. I can’t speak for you — and, were you so inclined, you’d pop on down to the comment section below and regale us with a tale of your worst, craziest, or strangest Christmas.

So, crappy Christmas.

Freshman year.

My parents are freshly separated. They live apart.

It’s three or four days before Christmas. I fly home. Dad doesn’t pick me up from the airport, but he sends this dude, who we’ll just call “Dodger.” Perhaps for its purposes as a rhyme? Who can say?

That was at a time when people could still meet you at the gate, and there’s Dodger– a tangle of limbs and a handlebar mustache — and he meets me and as we’re heading through the airport to the car, he tells me I fucked things up for him. He’d been at the airport for hours, and he was trying to pick up a stewardess (er, an “airline seatbelt-and-peanuts technician?”) and he almost had one in the bag. He tells me he’d have fucked her in the bathroom, ever the romantic.

We get in his pickup truck and start on the 45 minute drive home.

It is at this point I realize he’s been drinking.

So, now I’m on the Drunk Driver Express. Buckled in. Nowhere to go. Not like I have a cell phone where I can dial 911 secretly. Not like I can pop the door and do some cool action-movie roll-and-tumble (two guns! doves fly! the drunk driver is a bomb! bomb blow up!). I’m on this journey, like it or no. It never gets really scary — but it gets scary. Wheels over the line. Cars honking. All this on I-95. It’s almost Christmas. I’m going to die because Drunk Dodger over here is pissed off because I interrupted him getting some trim from a dim U.S. Air stewardess (er, “flight-accustomed sky sherpa?”).

The good news is, we do not die.  I mean, clearly. Unless you thought this blog was like, a Sixth Sense situation. “I see dead bloggers.

The bad news is, Dad’s home from work to meet us, and Dad’s already into the drinks, and he’s up for more. He invites Dodger to stay for a while. He invites me to drink with them. I’m 18 at that point, and my bowels are tighter than a trefoil knot due to the booze-soaked hell-ride, and I’m not really sold on this course of action. And yet, I sit. My father than regales Dodger with tales of how I got a lot of pussy in high school, and how that’s a point of pride for him (I was not, for the record, some kind of pimp in high school), and now it’s getting really weird, so I get up and I call my cousin.

She’ll come rescue me. We’ll go out. It’ll be fine.

Bzzt.

I throw my stuff in my bedroom, I come downstairs to tell him, “Hey, oooh, sorry, got plans, gotta scoot.”

Dad sends Dodger home.

Dad then tells me I shouldn’t go out with my cousin.

He says, he contributes money toward my college education, and that money is due, and he hasn’t yet decided on whether or not to sign and send the check. Hint, hint.

So, no-go on the escape plan. I go upstairs, pissed off. I read a book. I go to bed.

Cut to the next day.

Dad still needs to do Christmas shopping. I’m to go with him. Okay, fine. I get lectures on the way. Lectures about school, about friends, about family, about everything you could possibly imagine. Fine, yes, I’m a teenager, he’s the parent, lectures are a given part of life.

We head, if I remember, to K-Mart.

He wants to get a gift or two for my mother. He’s not sure what, so he asks me. I point out a couple of things, he tells me to go get them. I do. He makes me pay for them. The logic there: “You’re 18 and in college, and your money comes from me, so it’s my money.” I guess it’s not… bad logic? Though it doesn’t exactly thrill me to be spending my last cash on somebody else’s gift-giving, but okay, whatever.

We go home.

Evening rolls around. He says he doesn’t want to wrap those presents, so it’s my job. I have to sit in front of the tree while he watches TV (and watches me). I wrap presents. He’s drinking. He keeps giving me rations of shit while I’m wrapping. More lectures.

When I get done wrapping, he drops another bomb on me.

Not only is he unsure if he should continue contributing toward my college education, but he’s also decided to write me out of his will.

I’m 18 over here. I don’t know shit for wills. I don’t care about wills. Abstractly, it’s an insult, a barb of distrust, something on par with disowning one’s blood — but concretely, I’m just confused. What the fuck did I do to deserve that? What does that even mean? Why would it matter?

He goes to bed.

I’m still confused.

And I’m kind of pissed off.

I can’t go to bed. I can’t think about bed. And the more I pace and the more I ponder, the more I start getting really goddamn angry. This is Christmas. And so far, the gifts given to me have been a drunken roller-coaster ride, the attempted murder of my college career, and a loose sort of dis-ownership of my blood from the clan. Oh, plus shame, embarrassment and uncertainty. Fa-la-la-la-gun-in-mouth-la-la-la-boom.

Something snaps inside me. Like a little glass snowflake under a boot. The whisper hiss-snap of tiny glass parts breaking.

I take the presents I wrapped, the ones that go to my mother. I put them in a bag.

I call my friend Jim, and I tell him to come get me.

I call my mother, even though it’s late, and tell her to expect my arrival.

I pack my shit.

And I write a note. The gist, basically: “Do what you want with college and the will. I’m leaving. I’m taking the presents.”

And I leave. Jim gets me. I head to my mother’s.

I give her the gifts I picked out, because fuck it, I paid for them.

Now, you might be saying, “Hey, nice way to honor your father’s memory by calling him a dick. You’re an asshole.” To that, I’d say, touche. True enough.

That’s not the point of this exercise, though. Yes, he acted like a dick. It wasn’t what I would call a “high point” in our relationship, and certainly represents a major low point — a nadir, if you will. At that point, the relationship felt poisoned, like it had gone septic while I was off for my first semester at college.

But the point of the exercise is what happened Christmas Eve. I was to go to my sister’s that evening for dinner, and originally, he was supposed to show up. Nobody expected him to, because he was incommunicado.

And yet — he did.

He showed.

He was friendly, if a little… cowed? We spoke not at all of what had happened. He gave me a hard, strong hug and that was that. The night was nice, if a little awkward. He knew I was staying at my mother’s, and told me that he’d like to drive me back to the airport when it was time to fly home. He did. Still nothing was said about what had transpired, but he seemed okay on the trip, and I guess I seemed okay, too.

I don’t want to say our relationship was magically repaired — but, like a fever breaking, that septic infection had fled the body, leaving it rougher for the ride, but still intact.

And that, then, is the point. Sometimes, shit happens. Relationships go south and turn sour. Sometimes you come back from them, sometimes you don’t. You just have to hope for the best and hope that everything ends up the way it should. Life’s just too short. If the infection is curable, it’s too short not to save it. If the disease is too deep, it’s too short not to cut off the limb and move on.

That suck-ass Christmas is also a good example of how things often have a layer you don’t immediately perceive. It’s easy to see Dad as acting the jackass during this time, and certainly he was — but it took me years to see the obvious, which was that this was his first Christmas officially alone. I’d gone. Mom had left. He was sad and angry. It’s a short trip from there to feeling betrayed, and to acting like the world can basically go fuck itself in the ear. So, no, he didn’t react like a perfect father, but he did act like a human being, which is to say, fallible and confused and led by this heady broth of synaptic response and emotional knee-jerkedness. Further, I’m sure I acted like a standard teenaged dickhead, which only greased the wheels on this awful roller-coaster ride of a holiday season.

The other lesson learned there is that sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. If I hadn’t written that note and bailed, that septic infection might’ve stayed in the body. Sometimes, you have to push back to clear the disease. Aggressive medication and all that. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but just bowing your head or taking it on the chin might not be the best option. Dad was the type who pushed back with his own father, and if the stories hold true, he did so in a physical way — but I guess the outcome might’ve been the same. Independence and respect? I dunno. The thing is, sometimes a relationship is pull, but other times, it’s push. Hard to know which is which, I guess; your gut might tell you.

That bad Christmas was a turning point. Took a while to properly come out of it, but it was a steady, if slow climb upward from that dark spot.

So, even the shittiest Christmas had a bright side.

Merry Christmas, peeps.

What? Was that too depressing? Oh, Jesus, fine. Fine. You mopey slugabeds.

A real quick story to get you on your nog-hogging journey –

We had a dog, and he was a golden retriever, and his name was Bear. I don’t know why. His father was Buck. For all I know, it was part of a whole lineage of dogs-named-after-other-animals: Grandpappy Moose, Great-Grandpappy Wolverine, and Double-Great-Grandpappy Narwhal the Magnificent.

Bear was on a chain outside for most of his life. I know, not a nice thing, but whaddya want? It was a farm, and he was a farm dog, and that’s just how people did it sometimes. I wouldn’t do it today, but times and people are different, so shut up. Plus, I was a kid. What did you want me to do?

Anyway, one year a real bad ice storm came through at Christmas time. Like, heavy ice, needles of the stuff, just a terrible Icepocalypse.

We decided to let Bear into the house.

He was crazy, yes, but he was a good dog and didn’t destroy anything.

But, as we stood in the doorway to the living room, we did see him do what came most natural, something that unfolded in a kind of slow motion –

He pissed on the Christmas tree.

I mean, fuck, you can’t blame him. Basically, we put the dog’s bathroom right in the middle of the floor. How perfect for him? As he whizzed and whizzed on our tree, he looked to us, slobbery and happy, as if to say, “Hey! I found the bathroom! Merry Christmas, you guys, thanks!”

Blessedly, the Christmas lights were not on or plugged in at the time, so he did not electrocute himself.

So, there you go. One last Christmas memory where the dog pees on the Christmas tree. Perhaps that’s the equivalent to what I just did to your Christmas holiday with this here blog entry.

The sweet susurrus of my urine hitting your holiday joy.

Psssshhh.

Okay, for real, Merry Christmas. Now shut up and go drink nog and punch elves.

The Fourth Nerdtivity

18 comments

  • It’s four years ago.

    My daughter’s about four months old. My wife-at-the-time and I are in therapy, but it’s going precisely nowhere. We’re taking Amtrack back home to see our families. I’ve already been informed that she’s ‘taking some time’ as soon as we get home from the trip, and moving in with a friend for awhile.

    The Amtrack thing wasn’t my idea, and it was poorly implemented: a 14 hour ride in which no sleeper cars were purchased. I sit with my kid, she sits in another pair of seats and texts with a guy she met online and had never met. It’s great.

    At my folks, Christmas Eve, I tell me dad what the real plans are for January 1st, and he tells me I just can’t let that happen, because if I let her move out, she’ll never move back in; in his opinion, separations never work out in favor of the relationship. (In hindsight, I agree with him, by the way.)

    I look at him, and I break down, right there in the kitchen, while we’re putting away dishes.

    “I don’t know what to do, Dad, and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

    “You’ll make it,” he says. “You have Kaylee.”

    I did, and I did.

    But that Christmas?

    It’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re riding Amtrack home, sitting across the aisle from one another.

    The clock ticks over from 11:59 to midnight. I lean over to wish her a happy new year, and I see she’s texting the same to her online buddy. That’s about when I decide I’m okay with her moving out for awhile.

    Four years later, we’re a happy Disney divorced couple. We so well-adjusted, we glitter — shared weekends, stress-free hand-offs, mutual ‘double date’ trips to the zoo; in hindsight, it’s the best possible thing we could have done — amputate the gangrenous arm to save the relatively healthy body.

    But that night. Yeah. Not so much.

  • I’m scouring my mind for good Christmas stories… or bad ones, I should say. Well, good bad ones. Ones that are of bad nature yet good… bad.. ambiguous? Badwrong? Badong?

    Regardless, I am having trouble coming up with anything, so I am just going to say the stories of your father continue to amaze Chuck, and paint an amazing image of a man who must have been very complicated to sum up your feelings on most the time. He seems both lovable and assinine at the same time, and amazing no matter which he was being. Thank you again for sharing your story.

    Doyce: Also, thanks. Relationships that end never truly do when there is a kid: I know that from personal experience. I am glad you found a medium, and wish you and your family the best possible Holidays.

    • Rick:

      No, that’s okay — you don’t have to share the “dead hooker” Christmas story. Frankly, we all have one, so who needs to hear it? It’s the same every time, for all of us. “Too much whiskey. Not enough lapdance. Too much claw hammer and LSD. Bathtubs and lye and bitter almond and Inna Godda Da Vida playing on the boombox. Elves and candycanes.” I know the drill.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, chief.

      – c.

  • Merry Christmas to you and yours, Chuck!

    I always seem to make the best of the situation, so Christmas is usually at least ok. One year, while I was in the Navy, it was another winter patrol on the submarine. Usually 90 days or so with no surfacing. We were sadly make a tree with green scrub pads and decorating it with stale popcorn. As soon as we were done, we had to tear it down to use the pads and scrub the bilges and whatever didn’t sparkle. That was Christmas.

    This year was destined to suck hard, since I am stuck at home after surgery and no one is coming here to visit. Wife and I spent our Christmas money on my surgery, so ho ho ho.

    So I wake up in pain, looking for that damned bottle of vicodin that nauseates me to near vomiting, toss another one back, and grab my phone. I start to feel the misery set in as I browse all the cheery, happy fuck me twitter posts about what a great time they’re having and how they got these sweet ass pens from awesome wives and I am ready to dump the whole bottle down my throat and strangle an orphan as I drift off into a coma.

    Then I read this and was so distracted from my misery that there was just enough time for my wife to wake up. She and my little dog piled on top of me smiling and slurping and slobbering all over me. The sparkle in their eyes and joy on their faces brought me back and made me feel so warm inside.

    I am not alone and I am loved. Best Christmas ever! Thanks again for sharing!

    Merry Christmas!

    • Back atcha, Twitwho is — didn’t know about the surgery, so best to you and the family, and hope the healing process speeds along on a pegasus’ wings.

      No, I have no idea what a pegasus has to do with this, I just think it’s time we invoke more mythic beings with Christmas. Santa should ride a goddamn pegasus. THIS I DEMAND.

      Merry Christmas, and feel better, dude.

      – c.

  • Four years ago, my eldest is only two months old. My mom and stepfather are in the process of ending their nearly-20 year marriage. While it’s not a great surprise — I’d figured it’d been coming for years, and surprise surprise, when my baby brother turned 17, whaddya know? — it’s still not an easy sitch on the family.

    Mike and I have not had an easy relationship, which is largely my fault, since I was such a hormonal, cantankerous little bitch during my teenage years. Including yelling that stereotypical, “You’re not my father!” a few times when I was royally pissed at him. Bear in mind, by this point, I’m 24, married over a year and with a kid on the way. We should be past all this shit, right?

    Mike had moved out of the house a few months before (I was staying with Mom while apartment hunting in September) and I do my damnedest to try and keep him in the loop, despite being told by my mother that Mike’s adjusted his life insurance policy to exclude me from it. I bring him ultrasound pictures, I drop by his new apartment a couple of times with food I’ve cooked… I’m trying to keep him involved in my life, and I’m not getting much in return. But fuck it, I’m eight months pregnant and crazy hormonal, so I’m going to power through, no matter how much Rick is telling me it’s not worth my time anymore.

    To compound all this, Nan (Mike’s mom) is dying of pancreatic cancer. Everyone figures it’s her last Christmas. (It’s not, but close.) She’s practically the only one in that side of the family who’s never treated me like a bastard child with no right to the surname. God rest her soul, if she ever thought it, she never EVER showed it, and for that alone, I loved her. So I wanted to see her one last time, thinking like everyone else that she was going to be gone really, really soon.

    Mom tells me that Nan and Gramps are staying at Mike’s sister’s for the holidays, and that I should call Mike to see when would be a good time to go visit. So I do. I call him up and tell him I’d like to go see Nan, when did he think would be a good time. This is about a week before Christmas. To this day, I’ll never forget what he said.

    He paused for a long, awkward moment, and then said, “Your grandmother isn’t up for company.”

    Straw that broke the camel’s fucking back. I’m only two months from birth, still on Zoloft to balance out my hideously insane mood swings, and I do not take this well at all. I yell and rant and probably froth at the mouth for a few minutes, the gist of which is basically “Since when the fuck am I -company-, motherfucker? I’m family, you prick!” and he just sits there and takes it, right up to the point where I tell him when he’s ready to act like my fucking father, he can damn well call me, because I’m done with his ass until he can pull his head out of it.

    It’s been four years, and I’ve not spoken to him since. But I’m not bitter. Noooo.

    In all actuality, while he still visits my uncle — who was his best friend when he was married to Mom — he’s currently halfway across the country to my best knowledge, and he barely speaks to my brother, who -is- his kid by blood. And hell, my kids aren’t suffering for it. Mom remarried, and her new husband is Papa to the boys, my grandparents visit, and my biological father and stepmother live close enough that I can drop in anytime I want for a visit. His loss, not mine. Or so I keep telling myself anyway.

  • Don’t know whether to laugh, cry or just plain run away. lol. Don’t think I want to try or can top either of your stories. I think I am suddenly very grateful for that. Thanks guys!

    Here’s hoping your Christmases will never reach such lows again.

    And I do think Bear had the best one ever! lol

    Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

  • Some Christmas memories good and bad:

    The last Christmas with my son before he died; the first Christmas without him.

    My mom passed away a week before Christmas, and opening up presents from her that Christmas was heart-breaking.

    Childhood memories of drunken fights between my parents and grandparents.

    This year we did not (are not) celebrating Christmas. We celebrated Yule. Yule this year was one of the best celebrations we’ve had. Good food, good drink, great friends and family. We’ve never had a ritual circle this big. There was laughter and merriment; no pressure, no hassle, no focus on gift-giving and obligations.

    We’ve talked to the kids. As a family we’ve decided to do Yule from here on out and skip Christmas. We will forge our own traditions from here on out.

    Dawn

    • Dawn:

      Yule sounds like a great idea for you guys — you have to do what’s right for your peeps on such a day, I think.

      Happy happy to you and yours.

      – c.

  • My sisters and I had a penchant for tormenting one another. It was good-natured, for the most part. My older sister was always the pioneer in such things, like wrapping small gifts in a large box or even a series of boxes.

    Losing her was like losing a limb. It’s part of the reason I’m so close to my parents and try to spend time with them when I can. Life is too short, after all, and it’s only getting shorter.

    Cherish the memories you have, work to make new ones that will last and remember that Christmas or Yule or Hanukkah or whatever is about more than pretty lights and shiny wrapping paper.

    Whatever you celebrate, I hope you do it safe & happily.

    ~Josh

  • Heh. If Santa rode a pegasus, the Easter bunny could ride a unicorn. Kinda goes along with that Easter bunny from the book you mentioned. The unicorn protects the virgins, so what else can the bunny do to take care of his needs? Ohh- what about a leprechaun on the back of Cerberus? That would be bad ass! “Stay away from my pot-o-gold, wee bitches!”

    Thanks for the well wishes and jedi word bending!

  • I’ve just received a Christmas golden shower – and I love it!

    But seriously, a very good life-lesson and a profoundly healthy take on a rough Christmas memory. Thank you for sharing.

    - F

  • I thought about sharing my worst memory but it’s too depressing. I’ll share if asked, but otherwise you’re better off not knowing.

    Lets see, a good memory, a good memory…

    Last year I was able to buy presents for my family. ALL of my family. I got to continue that tradition this year. I was employed over the holidays even though I hate my job, and even though I spent entirely too much money I feel great about it. One of my brother in laws literally said “I can’t believe you spent that much on me.” I’m going to be unemployed soon, but I was able to provide joy to others.

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