The Man Who Hated Christmas

The story below showed up on my Facebook feed this week and as someone who has a similar sentiment to Mike, I felt rather than share a story for Christmas I would share his. Hard to believe that this was from 1982, especially the part that says: “overspending and the frantic running around” — I guess some things do not change. I cannot remember the last time Chris and I exchanged gifts for Christmas (maybe those first few years of marriage). Now we do something together, or decide to do something for our home, but we are done with trying to find that perfect gift, especially when there is little we need.

If we do celebrate Christmas next year with our little man (and the jury is still out on how we are going to decide to navigate the holiday with our son) there will be a white envelope on the tree. Read on to see what I’m referring to, enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family.

December 14, 1982 Women’s Day

“It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.

As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.

Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition – one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children – ignoring their new toys – would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.”

For the Man Who Hated Christmas
By Nancy W. Gavin

Unexpected tears

I have said quite a few times on this blog that I am not a crier. I do not cry over normal things — a rough day or when I have been mistreated. No, for those days I rant. I stand up for myself, and I do what I can to make it better. When I do cry, the tears flow for what I cannot control. For moments that are no longer possible. I cry when I witness the human yearning for the physical touch between two people that is no longer possible, or for the experiences in my life that are no longer possible.

Yesterday someone at work asked the question of what recent movie or television show made us cry. It got me thinking.

My initial answer was the television show: Parenthood. I could not remember the most recent TV show or movie, and that was the first show that came to mind. There was an episode a few months ago, where the daughter from one family was going off to college. When her parents said goodbye at the airport, she acted like it was no big deal that she was leaving them, and walked off towards her gate. A few moments later she walks back and embraces her parents, and the moment I see them embrace I am bawling. It is a random moment of sobbing that I never expected, and the thought that comes to me: I never experienced my parents sending me off to college. My tears are from an experience I never had.

After thinking about all that, I remembered the exact show I most recently watched. It was a Showtime series that just ended called: The Big C. Yes, the show was about cancer. The main actress in the show is Laura Linney and because I like her so much I watched her show, even though it was about her having cancer. Yes, it was depressing at times, and yes the final few shows were very depressing, and yes I cried. I got to thinking though, in some ways the show is brilliant. Why you might ask? Because it was about reality. How many shows actually talk to you about what it might be like to go through having cancer?

For this show, Laura’s character has a son and she struggles with what it will be like for him if she dies. She struggles so much that she rents a storage unit and buys him a present for all his future birthdays (a car for his 21st, and many other great gifts for his other birthdays) and if she dies she wants him to have a key to the storage unit. Then one day near the end of the series she decides that she wants to see his face open each gift. She wants to experience each of those birthdays with him. So, yes, she takes them to the storage unit and they open his gifts together, laughing and crying together.

I cried, and cried, and cried watching that episode. I cried for the birthdays I did not have with my parents, I cried for my friends and coworkers who have lost their family and friends to cancer. I cried for the longing of losing someone. I cried for someone nearing death pondering what they will miss out on. And, I wonder, did others cry like I did when they watched this episode?

I am the unexpected crier. I cry at the strangest times, when emotion hits me strong, and I often do not cry when most might expect it. We are all wired differently and our deep triggers move something inside that open the flood gates and we are never the same.