Saturday, December 27, 2003

Ah, Christmas.

It has changed so much for me from when I was a kid. I think of Christmas and immediately get very vivid images.

Carroling with my church and standing in the cold. I remember our candle light services and the blind lady named Carol who sang "O, Holy Night". The years I would do midnight service at Greenwood Church as lector and having to sign up for it as soon as the next years' calendar went up in January. Visiting Santa and having a picture taken at Anne & Hope until age 10. I remember family gatherings at my cousin Kenny's and all those who were always there but aren't any more. Singing at senior citizens' homes with my high school choir. Turning on the lights around the house for my mother every night. How I hated to wrap presents because they never came out right. Buying presents for my Aunt and Uncle's dog, Dukie. The year I wrapped my self as a present for a girlfriend in high school and her parents actually let me lie under the tree. I proposed to both of my wives at Christmas. The look on my Auntie Alma's face when I announced the 2nd wife and I were getting married a little earlier than planned because of our son being on the way. My first Christmas with a family of my own. Each year since with my son and the anticipation of watching him open presents.

There are bad Christmas memories also. The year I answered the call a few days after Christmas that my Grandpa Cobb had died. The year my mother and I fought about having a Christmas tree after my father died. My first Christmas apart from my sons and the ugly scene with my ex and her family over presents one other year.

I guess I should be happy the good memories outnumber the bad.

One of my most lasting memories is how my father would wake me after "Santa had arrived". I would go to bed and a few hours later the man in red would come and I'd be woken up to see what he had left. I guess this was done because of my father's schedule at the police department. My parents' bedroom was right over mine, so my father would either stomp on the floor or hit it with a broom handle loudly to wake me. He'd yell out to me, "Jack, did you hear that?! I think it sounded like something on the roof! Better check and see, it might have been Santa's reindeer up there!" Sure enough, there were packages everywhere proving he had come and gone and I had just missed seeing him. It didn't dawn on me until years later that there was a whole other floor and ceiling between my bedroom and the roof, but it always worked like a charm.

When I became a dad I started a little tradition of my own which lasted for a while through the divorce. At my house Santa needed a little change from all the milk and cookie he had at all the other houses. When Santa came to the Eaton house there was pizza and root beer waiting for him!

This year has been great. The "young lady" was overwhelmed with my gift of a spa visit. Johnny loved what he got. I have also hit a milestone of sorts with him as well. Usually I would get his latest school photo as a Christmas present. I understood the situation given that my ex certainly wouldn't want to have to go out buying a gift for me and he is still young. He finally got me something else. And very thoughtful, too. A new shirt to wear. e had very quietly asked, a few weeks ago, what size I was wearing now. I never gave it another thought; just his keeping up with my weight loss. Then to open the gift that he had actually put some thought to was even more wonderful than the gift itself.

He and I have the whole week together. I am looking forward to every moment. Except, of course, when he goes back.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Well, I seem to be back to my old habits of not writing for a while. I know I’m not working on the Great American Novel here, but I would like to be able to regiment myself a little better than this!

Actually, work has been keeping me very busy. Plus the fact my PC is so ancient it takes forever to do anything; that sometimes hinders me from posting. All is well. I feel as if I’m actually getting up to par as a Team Leader at work. I gauge that by the fact I haven’t been called in to my boss’ office in more than three days! I have had a few moments in learning to deal with people as a manager, but I’m still getting my sea legs.

Things are still on a positive track with the “young lady”. She is very sick right now with whatever is going around these days so we didn’t see each other this weekend as I had hoped. Thursday she did call me and suggested lunch together. I almost knocked over furniture running to get there! I have gotten her something very nice for Christmas I’m hoping will make an impression. She had been hinting recently about how much she wanted to see “Lord of the Rings” but ended up going by herself on one of her sick days. Then at lunch she very pointedly said that she would love to see it again! I am taking all of this as indications this still has very strong possibilities of going somewhere. I am doing my level best not to jump the gun on anything emotional with her. I figure any talk of “wherever this is going” would wait until after one or two more dates.

Patience….. patience. This is my mantra!

Thanks to Guardian Storage my Christmas has been messed up. I have been with them for 10 years. In the past year I have fallen behind a little and racked up some late fees. This I freely admit. I had been paying them, some times not as much as others, but paying them something on a regular basis even at the worst of times. Three weeks before Christmas they put me in a lien where I have to pay $250 by the 30th. I was livid. I was every worst customer I’ve ever talked with. I did try reasoning with the manager but his answer was, “I’m sorry, sir, but we have to have this cleared off our books”.

My answer was, “When it’s cleared off your books, you can plan on my belongings being cleared out to another storage company!”

I know they have a waiting list. I know I’m not a big money customer. But I was a loyal customer for 10 years.

Ah, life in the big city!

Sunday, December 07, 2003

My mother has been dead 4 years today.

I can still hear her laughter. I can still see her smile. I remember her touch. Her voice when she yelled, sang, whispered and just talked.

In one of my last conversations with her, I promised her that I would be alright in life. I often wonder how well I have kept that promise. Things happen every day that I wonder what she would have thought of the situation. I wonder how events in my life would have been affected if she were still alive. How she would have loved watching Johnny growing. How proud she would have been about my promotion at work. What she would have thought about my surgery. What she would have thought of the “young lady” and me.

My father has been gone for 25 years and I do think the same about him sometimes. Mostly when it has to do with Johnny and the ‘young lady”. What would it have been like to go out drinking with my father? How would his face have looked the first time he held his grandson? What would it have felt like to have him come visit me in my own house for the first time? What we he would have looked like at my wedding(s)? What would my last conversation with him have been like?

I envy my sisters for having known both of them longer than I did. They knew them when they were young and more active. They knew them as children and adults. My father, especially, was a different person when I was growing up than the one my sisters knew. He suffered two major strokes by the time I was 10 and it affected his personality. It wasn’t a Jeckyl and Hide kind of thing, but he was slightly altered from the person he had been. Right before I moved from RI I had tried getting together with one of his oldest friends and ask what my father was like when he was in his 20’s. I regret not having met with that friend; yet, anyways. Maybe pouring this out like this will encourage me to make a phone call at least.

Luckily, I had Johnny younger than my parents had me. I plan on having those drinks with him. Going places with him. Being there for him. Seeing things happen in his life that my parents missed. Or, I guess, those at which I missed having them.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Tonight was the company Holiday Party. I had a great time. Well, almost; but I'll get to that.

The whole place was decorated very well with a winter wonderland theme. My friend, who has the job of putting these together, is now set in this job for as long as he wants with this successful party under his belt.

By the end of the night I was wearing a tinsel bandana and having a fake snowball fight with a friend's daughter. I even danced for the first time in I don't know how long. It felt great. I received an Honorary Mention as "Salesperson of the Year". That was nice to be recognized; even tough it is more a popularity contest that anything based on actual sales ability.

The "young lady" did show up with the guy she's seeing. A Neanderthal of a moose. I kept my cool and shook his hand. All the time looking at the scaffolding with the lighting above him wondering if any of them were loose and, if not, if I could climb up there! I went on to my second vodka/cranberry and decided to have a good time.

I take comfort in the not too strong terms she has used to describe their relationship. If you could call it that. I keep hopping that patience will work out in the end.

The worst part of it was that she look so damned gorgeous!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I received of the shortest and simplest emails ever. And it made me cry.

I got a Christmas greeting from an old friend, Jeffrey Thomas. Jeffrey is the director of Camp Aldersgate in RI. Just three shorts lines brought back years and years of memories and flooded me with emotion.

Aldersgate is a summer camp run by the Methodist Church. Upon reflection, I noticed that an entire quarter of my life is tied up in Aldersgate. I first attended as a camper in the summer of 1974. Well, you could call it attended, as I bratted my way out of camp early through an unbelievable homesickness fit. Then in 1980 Don Gothberg asked me to help out there as part of his photography sessions during what was called "Living Arts Camp". From then until I left RI in 1994 it was difficult to keep me away from there.

Physically, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Hidden away off the major roadways of rural RI the camp surrounds a peaceful little lake. I don’t know how many acres and cares of woods and paths. A place where you can forget the problems of everyday life and take a long, slow breath and thank God for each of those breaths. Some of the buildings have changed slightly since ’74, but it’s still a refuge well worth the drive.

Ten years totaled I have invested in camp. The number and richness of the people I had met there is staggering. I fell in love there. I had my heart broken there. I struggled with problems of life there. Spent my first married moments there. I mourned the same marriage on the same spot where my bride and I danced. I miss going there so much. Once I have enough vacation time at work, I plan on trying to return there on a yearly basis to counsel again.

It amazed me how quickly all these memories and emotions returned. I could picture every step I had ever taken there. I could feel the dirt paths under my feel. The cool shade of the trees. The smell of the lake. The sound of the dining hall.

I marveled at how easy the internet allows us to make those connections. How it keeps us connected with people. I still don't know why this seems easier than writing a letter or making a phone call. Maybe it's all part of how lazy we've gotten. With the internet we don't have to put a stamp on an envelope and bring that to a mailbox. It's all so instantaneous. What we might have given up in style and intimacy we have gained in sheer volume of those we can contact.

Recently, they printed a book of Ronald Reagan's letters. Apparently, he was an avid letter writer. While we can emote and be creative at a keyboard just as well as we can on paper; there's still something intimate and personal about taking a pen in your hand and writing the words down. Is that a conflict with how I have opened myself up here on this blog? I honestly don't know; but I love instant gratification as well as the next guy!