Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Game Time

There are a lot of Christmas traditions. These are mine.

Week 1 tree goes up. Week 2 window lights on. Week 3 cards get mailed. Week 4 post the Rudolph story. 

That’s about all the spirit I can muster as part of a tiny, aging family whose biggest gift is that they survived to see one more Christmas. There is no gift shopping, no turkey in the oven, no kids working themselves into a frenzy, no dog wandering around with a bow stuck to its head.

As Bill Belichick would say; it is what it is.

So I continue working through my festive ‘to do’ list until I hit task number four, which should be the easiest. Just say a few hopeful words, cut and paste the Rudolph story, and everyone will ‘like’ it on Facebook and wish us a happy holiday.

But that’s where things become derailed and the skis fall off the sled, because the hopeful words are hard to muster up on this 15th anniversary of Stephen’s death.  For the past week I’ve gotten up each morning and stared at my blank computer page, telling myself to just jot down a few merry words and not give the gift of depression this year.

But like a season-weary, injured NFL player, I’m a game time decision. I’ve had a little red X next to my name for the past week, and although I’m trying hard to rally I’m just not sure if I can dig deep enough to find any Merry in this Christmas.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and it’s game time.

I can almost hear the Fantasy Festivus players cheer as I put my headset on and line up to the computer. I make a few key plays, score high points for extra-long sentences and get hit with a few penalties for ‘non-excessive celebration’ as I type these words onto the screen.

These imperfect, heartful words that will be sent out into the Universe, just in case there is someone out there who feels like me and needs a cheerleader on the sidelines. Someone to say “I know it’s hard, but you can do this. Don’t think too far ahead, just think one day at a time, and on this one day, you can do this.”

For me, that cheerleader is my brother Stephen. And Rudolph.

Read it and rally my friends, it’s game time.

The Night We Saw Rudolph.

Twas the night before Christmas on Webb Street in Salem. Stephen is five years old and trying desperately to fall asleep amidst the holiday excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning.

I tell him that if Santa comes and he is still awake, he will fly right by and not bring him any toys. Just then, someone drove into the driveway of the liquor store that use to be our neighbor and put their brake lights on, causing the bedroom to glow in a bright, red light.

His eyes grew as big as saucers as he looked at the window, then at me, and muttered “Rudolph…!” just before falling asleep.

From that year forth, every Christmas Eve Stephen would turn to me and say, “Remember the night we saw Rudolph?” and we’d laugh at the memory. But as we grew to adults, I began to respond, “That wasn’t Rudolph, it was….” and before I could finish the statement he would give a little smirk and say, “SShhhh, it was Rudolph” and we’d just smile.

My brother has been gone 15 Christmases now, but I still tell this story to anyone who will listen.

Because looking back, Stephen was right.

It was indeed Rudolph.

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