Uncle Dave reading the Christmas story to me, my sister, Angie, & cousin, Jed, at Grandma Mac's house. Christmas Eve 1974.
Christmas Day in 2016. Went to church this morning. There was nothing else to do. I should really be happy. I mean we were singing these old songs written in the 19th century with beautiful verses about how the babe, the son of Mary, was born, how he was still and quiet in the manger and would be pierced to redeem mankind and bring salvation to the world.
But I wish I was back a few years, watching my kids open presents & putting together a two-story doll house for my daughter, Gabby. I'm not the greatest in the world at building things & Maria thought I'd bitch about it, but I didn't. I figured it was part of my fatherly duties. The dollhouse is long gone. Sold it in a garage sale, I think.
I watch couples in church (or anywhere) with their little children and I get jealous. That was me & my family once.
But I'm not forgotten. This morning I got on my phone to send a Merry Christmas text to my friends Brian & Tammy and they'd already sent me one. They have a nice old house with a wooden floor in the Dearborn neighborhood of my hometown, Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I remember how nice Tammy was to my son, Max, when he was going door to door selling chocolates for the Boy Scouts. I've known her since high school.
Then there's my crazy friend Kristy, whom I've known since 7th grade. She's a rockn' rollin' fan, primarily of the Greatest Rock n' Roll Band in the World, the Rolling Stones. One of her top 3 favorite songs is "Rebel Rebel" by Bowie. For some reason I like the picture she posted on Facebook -- just her & her sister Wendy & the backs of their heads. Looked like they were laughing about something. Kristy is one of my biggest boosters, a diehard supporter of this blog. If it ever goes viral, she won't be forgotten.
i don't think anyone should ever be forgotten
Adam, my journalist-filmmaker friend, I contacted him this Christmas & he sent me a text back. Adam's known hard times in life, but also great triumphs. I feel an affinity with him. We like to eat burgers & drink beer together at the Buckhouse or shoot pool at Moonshiners. He even credited me for my help in his latest documentary, Out Here in Kansas. (We both believe our hometown movie house, the Bijou in Jett, Kan., is the greatest movie theater in the world.) And he's contributed to this blog.
(Now if I can just get Rachel Held Evans or Jamie the World's Worst Missionary to contribute a guest blog.)
With Adam, the circle isn't really complete until you factor our friend, Russ, into the equation. I knew when we were 19 and started hanging out together -- inseparably --that Russ was a bum, but man, was he ever a funny bum? Everyone needs someone like Russ in their lives. The character I would most compare him to is Roger Sterling from Mad Men. He's got that likable rogue quality about him. He's in Ohio now. Anyhow I texted him this morning. "Merry Christmas, dickhead." He responded, "Nothing makes me feel warm inside like a 'merry Christmas dickhead.'"
I remember one Christmas Eve. Russ & I were at our boss, Steve's house. (He ran the steakhouse we worked at.) We weren't 21 yet, but the guy treated us like men. Handed us each a beer.
Nowadays I'm living alone in a rundown apartment in an old section of town called "the village." My neighbors are artists and heroin addicts, but they're all right. It makes me kind of sad when I look at the county sheriff's online jail log and see the face of some 22-year-old kid I've met with all the other mug shots. Such shit is life.
I write for some conservative, family oriented publications, but I also offered to write for the Liberty Press, the LGBT paper in Wichita. I explained to the editor, Kristi, that I'm straight & my columns wouldn't necessarily be about gay/lesbian/bi issues, but hell, people are more than their sexual orientation anyway. She told me apologetically that she didn't have any space in the paper & there were people in the LGBT community chomping at the bit to write for her, should a space open.
i feel like there's an open space in my life
But remember what Mick sang, surrounded by the greatest rhythm section in the world, "There will always be a space in my parking lot when you need a little coke and sympathy."
The space is so agape. I hope Jesus will help me find my proper place.
I'll have Christmas with my kids on New Year's Eve at a get together at their Grandpa Guy & Grandma Marcia's place in Beulah, Kan. -- the place where the whole damn journey started for me. They'll welcome me with open arms. My kids will be so happy when they open their presents. I'm glad they're still kids, but they're getting close to becoming adults. Of course, I have every confidence that they'll be beautiful adults.
When Dad & I talk, invariably Grandpa Guy (that's great-grandpa to my kids) will enter into the conversation. In late January of 2017, he'll have been gone 10 years, but he was such a character. He still gets talked about. He's never really been gone.
Today, I'm alone. I should've got one of those cheap-ass Christmas trees like the kids in Peanuts had, but I didn't bother to do it. Didn't get around to ringing a bell for the Salvation Army this year either, which I regret, but we'll get it next year. I've been living on ramen noodles & loosing weight, but today I think I'll treat myself to pepperoni pizza & beer. (I remember Maria's Christmas brunch waffles.) I was going to get the really good beer, Fat Tire, at the liquor store. But there was a Mexican brand called Victoria, which was a little cheaper and which I had a curiosity about so I bought it. I like it because Victoria is my mother's name. I'll see her at the assisted living facility on New Year's Eve, the Saturday I celebrate Christmas with my kids. Mom will never be forgotten.
I'm determined that I'll make 2017 a good year for myself even if the orange menace is president. Screw him, we'll have fun anyway. It's what I really wish for everybody -- love & peace of mind.
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"--Darlene Love