From the back burner: Sacking Santa, resurrecting Christ(mas)


Brilliant artwork courtesy ASBO Jesus

I’ve been waiting for a point of re-entry to this blog after my weeks-long hiatus. While there are no shortage of topics rolling around in this overgrown compost pile of a brain, I suppose a stale post-Christmas wrap-up is as good as the next idea.

The missus and I have been talking about having a gift-less Christmas for years. We’re at the stage in our lives where we can buy whatever gift-size item we want: CDs, clothes, books. It’s partly to make a statement. We rail against the commercialization of Christmas, although it’s nearly impossible to escape. If the L-O-V-E=G-I-F-T myth doesn’t trip you, the after-Christmas sales will. Yes, Virginia, I spent my Target gift cards buying more decorations for next year. No one escapes at least one teensy-weensy gift, plate of cookies, whatever. All have sinned.

And I appreciate the charity. The thing I love best about the Christmas season is that people act more hospitable. They display the sort of kindness one only wishes was displayed in, say, at the grocery store parking lot in July.

So, why was this Christmas different from all the others? It was a confluence of events: the poverty of first-time home ownership and responding to family members in need. I’ll skip the former topic for now so I can share with you the details of a Christmas day unlike any I’ve ever had.

My cousin, Adam, and his wife Connie have a son, Isaiah, who is battling a rare form of leukemia. Since my wife and her family are part of an evil communist conspiracy that celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve (Helloooo. Calendar, anyone?), we often have nothing to do on Christmas day. So, instead of mooring myself at my in-law’s kitchen table and drinking bad coffee all day, I opted to visit little Isaiah. My wife graciously offered to accompany me. My brother, Ernie, a Los Angeleno whom I was planning on visiting anyway, met us at the hospital.

More than a month later, so much remains with me from that day. The overwhelming gratitude with which we were greeted. Our shock at seeing Isaiah’s darkened skin caused by weeks of chemotherapy.


The exhausted look on Adam’s face from 45 days of sleeping in a hospital bed next to his son. The delicious meal Connie prepared in the kitchen of the guest house.


The surprise she received when we brought Isaiah out of the hospital for an approved two-hour visit with his family. How light Isaiah’s tired body felt when I carried him to his wheelchair after a long day.  The restful expression on his face as he settled in to sleep.


The smile on his face after he opened one of his presents, a Transformer, and patted the box in perfect contentment.


We did receive Christmas gifts from a few select members. But the afternoon with Isaiah, his younger sister and his family overshadows anything I received. We’ve all heard the clichés about the best presents being the sort of thing that doesn’t come in a box wrapped in shiny paper.

It’s true. It was absolutely worth eating homemade bean burritos and messing up my back due to a 6-hour commute so I could hang out with family and help bring a little cheer. I don’t know if we’ll keep this tradition next year and the years to come. I’d like to think we will.

Of course, if we have children and my parents move nearby, all of this piety will be tossed with the Christmas tree.



Filed under Christmas, commercialism

3 responses to “From the back burner: Sacking Santa, resurrecting Christ(mas)

  1. Velma

    I had an oddly similar Christmas experience. I said goodbye to friend and fellow Lockportian Tom Fuertes after he succumbed to liver and bile duct cancer on Dec 23rd. He was 38. I held his hot, dry, yellow hand as he died, and remembered who he was to so many people, and what he meant to me.
    Previous to this, I had promised Tom my liver and bile duct before the cancer was discovered. We were a good match. It was the right thing to do. I don’t know why more people don’t offer living liver and kidney donation. It is a three month commitment of time, and donations to compensate the donor for lost work time are so plentiful. I was ready. I regret that I never got a shot.
    It’s easy to concentrate on the evil and dark, or the merely ephemeral or surface. But when you set yourself to see what is true and deep, you are more likely to see it everywhere. This was my best and most lasting Christmas gift.

    Glad you and yours had a good Christmas.

  2. St. Velma, it’s good to hear from you. I’m very sorry about the loss of your friend, Tom. If you didn’t know, his name means “strong” in Spanish; I hope you can take some strength in knowing that. I admire your giving spirit. My mother donated a kidney to my younger when he was 5 years old. He’s 29 now and the brat is doing quite well. I can’t imagine my life without him.

  3. Mom

    Love, to think I reared such a sensitive son. If you noticed, I’ve been quiet about your visit with your cousin. It brings back mixed emotions for me. Some are unpleasant memories, others, a heart full of thanksgiving. I pray this little boy and family will have the same miracle God gave us. Through it all, I can truthfully say I would do it again. Unless you have gone through it, you can’t imagine the daily blessings. All the time (2 1/2 months living in the hospital) I felt as if we were in a bubble, apart from what was happening. Wish I would have kept a journal.

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