The Worst of Times, the Best of Times

                Christmas is a time for reflection.  When we were kids, we fretted over whether we were nice or naughty.  Being nice was vitally important, don’tcha know.  How else would we maximize the chances of getting that brand new Hot Wheels Sizzler set?

                Of course (and, sadly, to be honest) we aren’t children anymore.  We no longer wonder how a fat old man could squeeze his fat old butt down the chimney (or just magically appear in our chimney-less living rooms.  Hey, we were kids, man.  We didn’t question the magic).  Instead, we now ponder the year past and what it all meant.

                Well, I’m here to tell you, what it all means is that 2020 sucked. 

                With the possible exception of George Soros and the Democrat Party (there’s a difference?), I seriously doubt there would be much disagreement on that point.  Businesses have been destroyed, lives have been irreparably disrupted, and, infinitely more important, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens have paid the ultimate price due to a pandemic which, despite the naysayers out there, traces its origins to China.

                NOTE:  It’s not my intention here to debate whether 300,000 people died OF COVID-19 or WITH COVID-19.  That’s a topic for another day.

                With that in mind, I threw myself a pity party.  I bemoaned the possibility that 2020 would be the worst Christmas ever in my life.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that this is just not so.  There were plenty of Christmases which were much worse.

              So, if you’ll indulge me…

8.  1983-Even though I was able to spend the holiday with my brothers, sister, and stepfather, this would be the first Christmas we would spend together without our mother.  She had passed away the previous June and, even though we put on a facade of cheer (augmented by alcohol), there was no escaping the sadness in the room.

7.  1988-After a break of twelve years, I found myself in Keflavik, Iceland, while on deployment with a Navy squadron.  However, even though I didn’t spend the holidays with family, I did spend them with friends.  On the downside, a blizzard, resulting in “white-out” conditions, meant I could not eat a Christmas meal at the galley.  So, I opened a can of tuna fish in my underwater which I ate with crackers while watching reruns of “Dynasty.”

6.  1977-What would prove to be my second Christmas away from home in a row, I was inport with USS America in Palma, Spain.  I was able to go ashore, true, but I would have much preferred to be back in New England.  As an added bonus, I came down with food poisoning from the shrimp cocktail served during the ship’s “Holiday Feast.”

5.  1976-At only eighteen years old, this was the first time I was ever away from home at Christmas.  As such, I was awash in a miserable “woe is me” state of mind, longing for my family and new girlfriend.  On the bright side, I didn’t get food poisoning.  On the other hand, my girlfriend dumped me in a couple years.  So, there’s that.

4. 1997-This Christmas could have made my “Best Of” list.  Even though I was on a Mediterranean cruise with USS George Washington, we were due for a port visit in Marseilles, France.  Once docked, several of us would shoot up to Paris to meet our families.  Unfortunately, because Saddam Hussein decided to be Saddam Hussein, we were ordered to the Persian Gulf, where we spent the next several months.  I would end up being at sea on Christmas and, since I worked all night on Christmas Eve, slept away December 25th.

3.  1996-Even though I was still part of a ship’s crew, I had the day off.  This meant I was able to watch my young children open their presents from “Santa” (I was actually the jolly fat man).  Mid-morning, I took a phone call from my brother who told me that our stepfather had succumbed to cancer.  My wife and I would be in Connecticut the next day.

2.  1982-My mother is diagnosed with lung cancer.  If you’re curious how this turned out, refer to #8.

1.  2017-Without question, the very worst Christmas of all time, my father-in-law passed away on Christmas Eve.  Even though I was in the midst of a divorce and had lived apart from my wife for over a year by that point, my heart broke when she called me that morning.  Without hesitation, I rushed to her house to give what comfort I could to her and our daughter.  A tragic epilogue?  His funeral was on New Year’s Eve.

                So, this means that, if nothing else, 2020 would come in as the ninth worst Christmas of my life.  And, frankly, if I thought about it, it would probably drop much farther.  Such is the “advantage” of having lived through sixty-two Christmases, I suppose.

                Because, when you come right down to it, things aren’t nearly as bad as I may be tempted to think.  I have my health and, much more importantly, so does my family.  From what I can tell, we’re fairly happy with our lots in life.  True, this year may not have as “Christmasy” a feel as in years past, but the love we share for each other has never wavered and gives no indication that it ever will.

                I’ll be spending the day with my daughter and her husband.  I will see my son and his fiancee this weekend.  The coming year gives a bright promise that we’ll emerge from the national funk in which we find ourselves.  Indeed, things could be much, much worse.

                Now I know what you’re thinking.  Surely, you have fond memories of many Christmases, don’t you?  Of course I do.  Far more than what I’ve listed here.

                Obviously, the years I spent as a child with my brothers and sister stand out as some of the happiest times of my life.  We believed in magic and, when the magic faded away, we basked in our love for each other.

                Although, if pressed, I can immediately list the top twenty-seven Christmases without hesitation.  Since my eldest son is twenty-eight and his sister two years younger, I’m sure you can detect the common thread (in fact, were it not for #4, the number would be 28).

                Still, my very best Christmas?  That’s actually simple:

                in 1994, In the early morning hours, I watched a toddler rip through though his presents while his infant sister watched, goggle-eyed, from her mother’s lap on the couch.

                Take that, 2020.

                You still suck, though.

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