Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve, 2014. I'm sitting on the couch with my wife, watching Law & Order reruns, and listening to the rain from a Christmas Eve thunderstorm pounding down on our family room roof. It's almost 50 degrees outside, which is not very Christmasy. But I'm not complaining. Our younger son is upstairs, safe and sound in his room, playing an online video game with friends.

Oh, yeah. We just ordered Chinese takeout, too.

I grabbed my laptop and wanted to write a blog post, but I don't know what to write about.

There have been a lot of thoughts running through my head over the last few days. My mind always starts racing--even more than usual--around Christmastime, even though I've never been a huge fan of the holiday. Especially since it's grown so commercial over the years.

I know Christmas is supposed to be a religious holiday first and foremost, but we aren't very religious. (We're spiritual, not religious.) So we like to think of it as a family holiday. Almost like a second Thanksgiving. A time to be together, eat good food, and be grateful for what we have.

For several years in the not-so-distant past, Christmas was bittersweet. Sure, we had things to be thankful for. But we also had our struggles. Our older son's addiction wreaked havoc in our family and holidays were kind of like a ticking time bomb. We tried to enjoy Christmas, but something deep down inside us was saying, "It's gonna blow up, it's gonna blow up," over and over again. And sometimes it did. We just dealt with it the best we could and salvaged what we could of the holiday.

Since our older son got clean in July of 2012, Thanksgiving and Christmas have become kind of ethereal. We spent so many years wondering what a "normal" holiday felt like, that when we finally got a chance to experience it...well, it took some getting used to. Nonetheless, I'm so incredibly happy that this will be our third normal Christmas in a row.

Some people won't have a normal Christmas tomorrow, though. One family in particular, a family from the suburb in which I live, will have the agonizing task of trying to get through Christmas without their 16-year-old daughter. She was killed Monday night when a gunman sprayed the car she was in with 30 or so shots from his automatic rifle. This happened on a desolate corner in the neighboring city of Detroit.

There were four other teenagers in the car, too. Three of them were wounded and one was unharmed--if you can consider having to live with what happened to them that night for the rest of their life "unharmed."

I keep thinking how horrible it must be for the deceased girl's parents and family. A few days ago, they were likely full of joy, preparing for Christmas. Now they are full of grief, and have to prepare for a funeral.

Christmas will never be the same for them again. Never. Ever. I can't imagine how painful that must be.

There's been a lot of speculation on social media and in the papers about exactly why this happened to the suburban teens. They were admittedly sitting in the car smoking some pot right before the attack. Some people are saying the shooting was a drug deal gone bad. Others say it was a random robbery attempt. Lots of folks say the kids shouldn't have been where they were, or doing what they were doing.

I say, "Does it even matter?"

I don't really care what the kids were doing. What happened to them was another senseless act of violence in a society that has pretty much become numb to such acts. This tragedy has received a lot of media coverage because it happened to a group of (mostly) suburban kids while they were in the scary old city. But the sad truth is that things like this are happening every single day, all across our country.

Pardon my language, but what the fuck has happened to our society?

I posted this on Facebook today:

One thing that's wrong with the world today: Too much blame. Not enough compassion. Life's too short for constant finger-pointing, people. We're all in this together.

Things are so screwed up these days. People get shot and people blame the victims. Or people get shot and people blame the police. Or people get shot and people blame the president. Sometimes I just want to pack my bags and move somewhere that's free from the constant finger-pointing I mentioned on Facebook.

Okay, so I feel like I'm rambling now.

The Chinese food will be here shortly, so I need to wrap this up. Our Christmas Eve will be very low-key, just like every other day and night around here. Tomorrow morning, we'll open gifts. Or, should I say, the boys will open gifts. We are not very materialistic in this house--especially this year because I'm still out of work. My wife and I bought books for each other, and we've already made the exchange. (I got Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Fast. She got George Clinton's Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir.) There just wasn't anything that either of us really needed, because--and this may sound unbelievable--we already have everything we need.

Tomorrow the whole family will also be together for Christmas dinner, and before we eat we'll recite our new regular "grace":

"Right this minute, we understand that this is all there is, so let's really be together." (Thank you, Anne Lamott.)

I wish all of you who celebrate it a very merry Christmas. When you read this, take a moment (or several) to truly appreciate what you have. If you have a spouse or significant other, hug them and tell them you love them. If you have kids, hug them and tell them you love them. If you're with your family for the holidays, hug everyone and tell them you love them. Because we never know what tomorrow will bring.

Please don't ever take things you have for granted. Note: By "things," I mostly mean non-materialistic things. Because those are the "things" in life that really matter. Everything else is just stuff. And I know one family that would gladly trade all the stuff in the world for the chance to have their beautiful daughter back, to hug and hold closely this Christmas.

Rest in peace, Paige. My family is praying for you and your family.

"The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation." --Myles Munroe

"The marks humans leave are too often scars." --John Green (in The Fault in Our Stars)

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