A Christmas to Forget

I am being a bit nostalgic this week of Christmas. I have even tried to go back to the farthest Christmas I can remember. There have been numerous houses I lived in. Various kinds of tree ranging from live to aluminum. I have even tried to recall some of the gifts I received on those years. I have lot of fond Christmas memories. But, I must say there is also a Christmas I would like to forget.
I was born and grew up in the far away land of Indiana. Indiana is known for two three things: The Indy 500, hogs and corn. I know because I have been involved with all three. So, I would like to take you back to Indianapolis Christmas 1972. My mother and step father were in the middle of an ugly divorce. I just do not have the time to get into all of the details, suffice it say it was not pleasant.
I went with my mother to retrieve presents from the house I formerly called home. Our house was located in a blue collar neighborhood where most of the fathers were employed at the automobile plants that operated in the city at that time. I knew every kid on my street. I went to school just a few blocks away. I played in the park just across the street. This was my neighborhood. To me it was home.
My stepfather, who had been in my life since I was a toddler was meeting us there assist in the logistics of moving the presents from the house to the car. I referred to this man as “dad” growing up as he was the only father I really had any contact with. And, as it turns out, he would be the only male role model of any substance in my life. He worked the evening shift 3-11 for the United States Post Office in downtown Indianapolis. And, on I looked forward to Friday evenings when we would drive down to the Post office to pick him up from work. We would always stop and get a couple of bags of White Castles. Though I thought of him as my dad, it pained me when he would refer to me as my mother’s boy. It made me feel like he never really wanted to claim me. My step father was absent a lot because of his work schedule and he was emotionally distant. He was also an alcoholic. He met us there at 20 south Tremont and he was drunk.
The situation turned from bad to worse early on. He was drunk and became belligerent. Soon a shouting match between him and mother ensued. My mother was attempting to get the presents loaded so we could leave when he became violent. There was punching, choking, screaming, furniture being over turned. And, soon he had my mother pinned to the floor where he commenced to pummel her. I stood and watched in horror. I shouted for him to stop. He would not. Terrified and feeling that I must do something. I took a roll of duct tape and began striking him on the back. I shouted for him to stop. As he reached around to come at me, I ran out the door and across the street to neighbors and called the police. The police arrived shortly and he was taken out in hand cuffs.
I have tried to erase that Christmas from my memory. But, as painful as that Christmas is to recall, I can actually say that I was able to learn something from it. I learned that divorce is ugly. I learned that drunken behavior is inexcusable. I learned that domestic violence is evil. So I made decisions. And, these decisions that still influence my life to this day. I have never beaten my wife. I have been married for 28 years. I have never been drunk. My children have never seen me act that way and do those kinds of things. From that bad Christmas came a lot of good in my life. I reached down into my soul and made a choice that I would have a better life than the one I was living in. Thank God for that decision I made.
You may have Christmas memories that haunt you to this day. The holidays season my stir up emotions that have long been buried. You may be experiencing guilt, shame, hurt and regret. Understand that by facing those demons of the past you find a key that will unlock your future. Take that key and open the door to a better life. Use the pain to make you stronger. Use the hurt to make you better. Rather than allowing that ghost of Christmas past to paralyze you, learn from it to change the Christmas present and future. If I can take this pain and turn my life around, so can you. Face the pain head on, embrace it, learn from it, and glean from it!


~ by Daniel Toops on December 21, 2010.

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