Wednesday, December 26, 2012


We look forward to Christmas each year. There is something about the season that means fun, laughter, good food and drink, family and love, lots of love. For us in These United States the beginning of the Christmas season starts with the parades throughout the Union bringing Santa Claus into one of the major department stores of the area, in New York City it is the end of the Macy's Parade that signals we can sit down eat the Thanksgiving feast and then go out on Black Friday, very early, two or three In the morning and start shopping for Christmas gifts and great bargains. Then everything we say and do seems to point to Christmas. The day never seems to come then suddenly it is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and then it is over. Christmas of the future becomes Christmas past seemingly as quick as a blink of an eye. The best thing about the process is that we are left with a collection of memories that can warm us on cold Winter nights.

The peculiar part of this whole memory thing is that I can't remember specific Christmases rather it is like a collage of memories from all the Christmases of the past which can change depending on the time I am remembering. The earliest memories of Christmas revolves around being at my Aunt and Uncle's on Christmas Eve. The day was a fast and abstinence day, which basically meant we couldn't eat in-between meals and no meat. We didn't have the seven fishes but it was spaghetti with Marinara sauce with fish in it. There was card playing by the grown-ups until about eleven then the younger people would leave for mid-night Mass. When they returned about one thirty in the morning we'd have a feast of all kinds of stuff . We'd get home about three in the morning. My brother and I would get up about five and rush downstairs to open up our toys. We got clothes, things needed for the year or at least until Easter and one toy or game each. We were products of the depression and children of people who were really dirt poor. They were so poor it hurt. A good soup was hot water boiling and greens the Vegetable store was going to throw out and maybe a bone purchased for a nickel from the butcher. But we were poor or at the last rung of middle class and the toy or game was one for each of us and not necessarily what we asked Santa for. One Christmas my brother got a Charlie McCarthy doll all dressed up in top hat and tux. I got a cardboard rendition of an air plane cockpit. We were aesthetic. I personally like Mortimer Snerd but when my brother got tired of Charlie later on I picked up a book on ventriloquism and tried hard to throw my voice but never did a good job. Later that day after morning Mass we went back over our relative's house for a feast that lasted about four hours. After cake and coffee the grown-ups played cards. The men argued the women talked too much causing confusion and that was why the women won and the men lost. Lots of yelling and laughing.

The faces I remember from Christmases past are of my Uncles and Aunts who are no longer here. My uncle Tony would slip us five bucks which was a helluva' lot of money back then. My uncle Nick would let his eyelids flutter like crazy when the guys would set him back at a four hundred spade hand in Pinochle which he was sure he would make. One time he ripped up the dollars and threw it at the other guys when he lost a "sure" hand. They laughed like crazy and he calmed down. One time one Uncle showed up two sheets to the wind (drunk) and he insulted Uncle Nick's wife and they almost came to blows but the other guys and girls stopped them. Nobody held grudges. A blue collar immigrant related Italian family always argued, got mad and forgave. What is family for if one can't show emotions, let it all hang out and then kiss and make up.

My cousins from Christmas past have thinned out but I remember their young faces full of joy and expectancy of a good life. Sometimes that didn't work out but for the most part it did. One cousin I always felt close to had Christmas as her birthday she shared with Christ. We usually didn't get together on Christmas but we did during the year and an occasional Christmas every now and then. She was closer to my brother but she was always like a sister in my eyes. She was beautiful then and still is only a trifle older, and shorter. My male cousins were always playing ball and laughing and treating me like the baby because they were ten or more years older. I was about six, and World War Two was on and three of my cousins were home on leave from the Army one Christmas. My mother was complaining I was getting into too many fights, which by the way I was winning. One cousin, Sam, took me aside and taught me all he knew about fighting. I didn't win a fight that year until I forgot what he told me. But he was fun.

I remember the faces of Christmas past that were past World War Two, ones from my early days of marriage. The faces of my seven children when they were young children filled with the wonder of Santa Claus and the magic that turned the world from a cranky place into a world of fun. I was looking into those same faces this year, this recent Christmas past of 2012, the eyes still have the young light in them. Despite the thinning hair, maybe a slower gait, I still saw the seven of them around the Christmas tree and believing their mother and father were the wisest people on earth. My how that has changed. I remember the beautiful face of my wife long gone, and how happy she was because her children were happy. I remember the faces of my Mom and Pop now older than when were at my Aunt's and Uncle's. Their gait much slower, until my father's disappeared in Jan. 1971.

Now this Christmas goes into the memory banks. There was all my kids, their spouses, my grandchildren, my great-grandchild, all of us. A lot of changes and I guess my gait has gotten slower but it has picked up since the middle of 2012 for that is when I received my Christmas present early. A new found love for an old man but so far she hasn't noticed. I think. A new face that is lovingly stored in my memory banks along with all those that I have loved, and still love. It may be too early to start thinking of the future Christmas maybe I should get New Year's over with before thoughts of Christmas future take over. But Christmas is a good time with good people always filled with love and laughter for which I am one grateful SOB to have been blessed so much in the past, present and I am sure the future.          

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Slaughter of The Holy Innocents

Over two thousand years ago after Jesus was born Herod the mad king of Judea set out to destroy him but had no idea who he was so he went to the town he knew he was in and slaughtered all the male children under a year old without disregard to person figuring Jesus would be among them and be destroyed and would not usurp his reign. There was weeping and wailing by all the mothers and they were inconsolable.

Down through the years crimes against humanity continued to be done by those who were afraid of losing power, wealth or status or just because they were suffering from mental disorders or disease. Even to this time where we are considered to be civilized, genocide, crimes against children, women, against humanity are still be committed and tolerated by the world for some excuse or another. Sexual abuse of children in Thailand is well known. Women are continually kept as second class citizens in much of the world and young girls are sex slaves. The world's governments and leaders know far more than we do about the practices and where these practices are tolerated. The world and its leaders do nothing about the situation.

This past Friday, December 14, 2012, a mad young man forced his way into a elementary school in Newtown, Conn. after he murdered his mother at his home and senselessly murdered six adults and twenty innocents not older than six years. Here in the United States these type of happenings are becoming almost common place. The reaction is of horror, grief, some words of comfort then it all slips away in our collective consciousness until the next time.

There are those who cry out, "Where is God now? Where is your loving and caring God?".  Maybe they should look inward and cry out "Where were we? Didn't we see this happening right before our eyes? Why didn't we do anything to prevent it?". Tighter gun controls, yes of course. Let people hunt but keep the assault weapons with the ability to have clips with lots and lots of bullets that were intended to use in war, for killing lots of enemies  out of the hands of the general public at large. Yes of course. Let us set up clinics that really help people with mental disorders not to control them unfairly but to make sure they can function in society as good citizens. This person certainly must have been seen by his mother or some neighbors as slipping away into the world of madness. Denial must have played in their minds that he could not have disintegrated into such a destructive soul. So she did nothing. They did nothing. He was left alone to do unmentionable destruction finally destroying his very self. So I pose the question, where were we as a society, caring and watchful? Hopefully the President and our political leaders will face up to the problems as they exist in our society and try to stem the use of violence we perpetrate upon ourselves. We have to look at our society as a whole and ask ourselves why we let our video games be so bloody? Why our entertainment on television and the cinema is so bloody? It is easy to blame the makers of these shows but we as a nation patronize them. We pay money to see the blood and guts. Sooner or later all that is portrayed gets into the psyche of our young as well as our old, our society as a whole. Sooner or later all this violence played out on the big and small screens gets played out in real life.

But to the atheist and non-believers, and even the lost faithful who ask, "Where is your God in all this? Where is your God now?" I can only offer this response:

Where was our God yesterday? Probably right in the middle of it knowing we never could understand how he/she could just let this happen or how such injustices keep going on in this world of ours, such as children abuse, sex slavery and genocide. Because this happened so close we feel it more but tragedies are occurring all over the world practically every second of every day. Yet through faith we believe God is present and those upon which these tragedies occur are comforted in a later life. So only through belief, though faith can we believe that God is taking care of it all in His/Her way in His/Her time. Faith and hope are coupled together because they are something we can't see or realize because who hopes in something he already has? But through faith and hope comes trust and all we can say our God is here to help. This we believe. Not much of an answer for those who do not believe but there are some while not believing in a God per se, believe in a Greater Power, something outside themselves because they can't do whatever they want to do by themselves, ask any addict in a 12 step program.

Maybe our God is in us waiting for us to take action that is needed, action based on love and concern not caring a whit about money, power, or imagined freedoms being snatched away but rather what is right and just .


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Parties

He was introduced to Christmas parties the first year he went to work. It seemed like a great idea. The office shut down at the half day mark. The food was delivered and the bottles of wine and whiskey were brought out. He thought it was a great idea. Everybody was happy  Everybody ate. Everybody drank. Everybody loosened up. When the office party wound down many went downstairs to the bar to round out the evening. They drank until they were so loose that many went home together and got to "know" one another much better. The Monday following many were trying to appear as though nothing happened and soon as time went by only the ones involved retained the memories of the Christmas office party.

This practice went on for a few years. Nobody was concerned with drunk driving because then not much was said about it, besides, everybody thought they weren't drunk and could drive better by being careful. How wrong they were. The party in the office was stopped when one day someone happened to open the CEO's office door and found him and his secretary in "flagrante delicto" which led to the banning of all parties actually taking place in the office. This did not stop the practice of office, now called business parties. The parties just moved from the actual office to a hall or club where the exact same purpose was  pursued, which of course was stated to show deference and joy to the season but actually was a yearly excuse for enjoying oneself to the extreme. During the year there are other reasons for having such parties but they fall under different pretenses.such as Training, Conventions, Conferences, et. al..

He personally had no complaints about Christmas parties, in fact he looked forward to going to them. This was the perfect setting for meeting some of the women under circumstances where they had led their defenses down and they got to "know" each other in a way that wasn't related to business. When he first came upon this part of the Christmas party most of the women reacted in a way that led him to know that discretion certainly was the better part of valor. But as the social mores of the society changed nobody seemed to care if anyone or everyone knew of the liaison in fact it was no longer considered an indiscretion. He personally was happy with this progression of social morals. He found life much easier this way. That is, however, "easier" until she came into his life.

She was a new hire and they knew each other just about the year ending. They had not got along when they first came in contact with one another but work projects forced them to spend more time together and the more time they spent together the more they grew to like one another. They dated and then became a couple without officially presenting themselves as in a relationship, but anyone who knew them knew they were in a relationship. There were no limits placed on them and they were free to act in anyway they wanted. So far this had worked out all  OK as they showed restraint and care in not doing anything which would hurt each other. They decided to go to the Christmas party together. They figured they would have a good time. He figured they were together. He knew he had to be on good behavior and trusted that those with whom past Christmas parties led to short liaisons would show good enough deference to whom he was with. The party started  out well. They danced a bit, had something to eat, a few glasses of wine but then she started to switch to Margaritas. One drink led to another and she was starting to get out of control. She was no longer dancing with him but with any guy who asked her to dance. She danced fast dances, and slow dances and no matter what dance she danced she managed to rub sexily up against her dancing partner. He never saw her like this and quite frankly didn't know what to do about a situation he disliked intently yet had no right to say anything. Finally he started to drink Margaritas also and just let all abandon go. He danced with his old sweethearts  as well as with new ones he felt could be possibilities.  For both of them the night became a blur. They went with new partners to new homes and both woke up in beds with heads aching and souls wishing they could have turned the clock back and had a redo of the whole night.

That Monday they came rather sheepishly into the office and got to work on their project. They barely spoke of anything but business. They went home barely saying goodnight. For the rest of the time she was with the company they barely spoke. Finally she left to go to a new job. That year when the Christmas party was coming up he declined the invitation. He just about had his fill of Christmas parties and all the fun they seemed to offer.     

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thanksgiving Is Not Only In November

He was a prisoner in his own body. He couldn't open his eyes. He couldn't move. He figured he was in a hospital because he had all sorts of things sticking in and out of his body. There was a lot of people around him and they talked in hushed tones. From what he could discern he was in this condition for some time. The serious of the voices indicated that he probably was getting close to checking out. He wished he could see those who surrounded his bed and spoke in hushed, serious tones. He was pretty sure he recognized his children voices. He was hoping to hear her voice but he was just fading in and out of consciousness and except for his children he really didn't recognize anyone else.

He was coming out of another series of blackness and he guessed that it was a Doctor he was hearing telling those around the bed that maybe he had a few more hours, perhaps a day at most, at that. He heard the voices softly talking to each other about how close it was to Thanksgiving and how it looked that this holiday that was always so important to them would have to be passed because it wouldn't seem right to celebrate if he wasn't going to be there. He wanted to shout to them to go ahead and have the biggest Thanksgiving feast they could have because he had a great life that was filled with so many great events he could spend an eternity issuing thanks for the ride of his life. He started to slip out of consciousness into a blue fog and suddenly it was a Thanksgiving that happened some sixty years ago.

His mother always had the Thanksgiving feast. He had a very large extended family. Even though it was just his brother and parents they had dozens of cousins, loads of Aunts and Uncles, who were more like brothers and sisters and surrogate parents. They weren't all there at this feast but a lot of them were and the others would be reached by phone. The meal started with antipasto, the prosciutto was delicious and melted in his mouth as it was spread over the melon. Then came the pasta and the meat in the home cooked ragu .  Mom used to spend hours making that pasta gravy, sauce to the purists. Then the turkey which back then seemed to be served only at Thanksgiving, potatoes, vegetables followed by dessert of many cakes and pastry. The wine and beer flowed as did the conversation loud and filled with laughter and arguments. These were good times and everyone there seemed so young and full of life. But the talk and laughter started to fade, echo as he came back into consciousness. What a family he thought. He was so thankful he grew up in a family that had so much life, whose relatives were so much closer than the titles they carried of cousins and such. Even at this late stage he cherished his cousins who were left and thought of them as sisters and brothers. Most of the family had aged, wizened, died. He thought now he would see them again.

Again the haze took over and he was at another Thanksgiving feast. This time it was his family. He had a large brood and they were loud and boisterous. He had met a beautiful fiery Puerto Ricana who captivated him and they loved and lived for over fifty years until she was eaten up by a terrible disease and left him alone. But this day was a day some forty years ago when he they had their family and moms and pops and cousins and she had prepared a fest similar to the one he had envisioned some time before. They ate, laughed, argued, yelled and just exhausted themselves enjoying the day and each other. He saw his children grow to be people who he was proud of and who he loved very much. But he let his wife show the love for he was too much of a man to become too mushy. But he loved them all and was very proud to have fathered such a crew. As he was coming back into semi-consciousness he thought he made mistakes but the existence of his children made up for a lot of those mistakes and gives him much to be thankful for. He felt the loss of his wife but the love they felt for each other was worth the time spent battling that awful disease. More reason to be thankful.

He felt himself slipping into eternity once more but he didn't want to go, not yet. He still didn't hear her voice, feel her presence, he couldn't go without knowing she still loved him even in this state. And suddenly he was back at that day after his wife was gone for a half a dozen years and he figured he was getting too old for any of the romance that might have been left in whatever life he had in store for himself. Then he met her. She was a lot younger, full of life fun to be with. For some reason they hit it off. He thought it was crazy but besides liking each other there was an animal magnetism between them that just had to be explored. Suddenly life had more bounce to it, more fun to it, more reason to live in it. Each meal they shared was for him like mini Thanksgivings. Each experience shared just drew them closer. They were in love. Something that shouldn't, couldn't have happened but did. They were enjoying life, enjoying the moment then everything seemed to go black. And this time he almost came into full consciousness because he realized he had a medical occasion that threw him into this semi-comatose situation. Now he was being drawn into eternity, towards the light but not yet, not until he heard her voice once more so he could take her love, her caring with him into the great beyond. Suddenly he heard some rustling around and in hushed tones, one of his kids was saying to someone, "We tried to get in touch with you but you know how he is, he never gave us your number." In answering them he recognized her voice and he felt her draw closer. She still smelled great. He sensed she was crying. She touched him and whispered, "I love you." And then he was ready. He lived a full life and he headed towards the light full of the love he shared, full of thanks for a life lived with love.

But just as he was heading towards the light he felt something stopping him from moving forward. Instead he started to see the distance between him and the light to grow and soon the light was gone. The voice of love was calling him back as was the will of all those around the bed. He knew he must return because his life was not complete. He knew he had to share many more holidays with those who loved him. He knew he still had something to accomplish with his life so he fought with great resolve until he opened his eyes and saw them, saw her. He smiled, and said "I'm back. Your collective love let me know that there is too much here for me to do, for me to experience and I must stay until my journey is complete.". With that he reached for her hand, he held it and said, "Stop crying! I'm back to love you even more than before.".

And they lived a longer life than they could have ever expected sharing their love with all and especially with each other. With all this giving thanks was a no brainer!