Merry Christmas, blog readers!
I am writing this on Christmas Eve, having wrapped the presents I bought for the Patricia and the family, having made my secret veggie/chip dip, and having promised Patricia I’ll go to bed early to nurse this cough and these sniffles.
But not just yet.
I don’t mind sharing my life with the… 30 or so of you who read this silly thing every day. But it’s at this time of year that I have a chance to look back and take stock of my life and reflect on things that are good in my life.
I want to discuss a couple of special Christmas presents I have received in my life. I hope you’ll go along with me.
The first one arrived under the tree 35 years ago tomorrow, December 25, 1974. It was my very first radio! Up to that point, I remember hearing my little friends on the playground discussing what they had heard on the radio. That Fall, the big hit had been “The Streak” by Ray Stevens.
Of course, not having a radio of my own, I had no idea what they were talking about. I wanted a radio!
I began to lobby my parents for a radio for Christmas. “It doesn’t have to be an expensive one!” My father said, if I got one, it would be a good one.
Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. Finally, it did. Frig knows what else I got for Christmas that year. Probably some toys that I have long since forgotten about. Underwear. Socks. Candy. But I got my first radio, and that day will stay with me forever.
With that radio, I could tune in local stations whenever I wanted to. It came with a headphone jack, so it wasn’t long before I had a single ear headphone to listen to the radio with late at night. I discovered, on the AM band, plenty of radio stations from outside the Annapolis Valley, ones I still listen to today. I discovered 1010 WINS, 770 WABC, 920 CJCH, and so many others. That radio was my lifeline to the outside world!
That radio was mistreated. It fell on the floor one time too many and broke. Others replaced it.
Years and years later, when I started a part-time job at the Acadia University library, I learned that my boss, George Halliwell, kept a small second office in the receiving section of the library. It was the part of the building where all of the periodicals, newspapers and even student-written theses arrived. Part of my job was to sort through all that stuff, a couple of times a week, and send off the science periodicals to the science library (long gone now; there is just one library), and stick all the ones we were going to transport to the third floor, on a gurney, where it would be my joy to add them to our files and put them out for people to read.
Anyway, George kept a small radio in that small office. And, that radio was the very same model of the one I had received on December 25, 1974.
George used to read this blog. I don’t know what’s become of him. But if he is reading this: George, you have no idea how many times I wanted to steal that radio from you. I used to listen to it, too, to alleviate the ennui of the job. If you should still happen to have it, and don’t want it, I’ll be happy to cover the shipping costs if you popped it in the mail to me.
Today, I have radios all throughout the house. Here at my computer desk, I have two radios. Yes, two. There is a pretty decent clock radio that’s tuned to Q104. It’s on now. There is a second radio, more of a table top, that I’d given to my father and which he didn’t want, so I took it. It was a cute radio, and I couldn’t part with it. Used to keep it in my kitchen, but after Patricia moved in, it was either bring it down here, or toss it. Tossing a good radio is such an offensive concept to me, so beyond the pale, that I had little choice but to bring it down here and set it up. It’s also tuned into Q104. It isn’t turned on, but it could be.
I also have 2 radios in my bathroom. Two more radios in the master bedroom. A radio in the hallway between the bedrooms. A radio in the living room. One in the kitchen. One in the laundry room. And a big stereo with a tuner in the rec room. I think that’s all.
Yeah, a radio fetish. Don’t judge me.
The second life-defining Christmas gift is not one you may think of in that context, but I sure do. Let me tell you about it.
It was the Christmas of 1993. My Uncle Harry spent the holiday with us. He was out of sorts because his wife had died just a few months earlier. I hadn’t made her funeral because… I don’t remember. Work, probably. I was still on probation at my then-new job, and didn’t want to rock the boat very hard. I remember apologizing to Harry for missing her funeral, and he said it was ok.
I remember we had a great time that day. The turkey was especially good. The mashed potatoes were a class unto themselves. The squash was… squashy. Orange. It was orange.
And, Harry and I talked for a bit, about more than just his wife’s death. I hadn’t really talked to him in a long time and thought I’d just take that opportunity to speak with my uncle.
Skip forward a few days to New Year’s Eve. I was at Patricia’s place (yes, we’ve been together that long, more or less). I checked my answering machine messages before we went out to the Grand Parade to welcome in the New Year. My mother had called and wanted me to call home. I did. Her voice breaking, she told me that Harry had died the night before. My father had tried to call his brother that morning, as had their sister Leona, but nobody had answered. Worried, they drove out to Harry’s home. Dad peered through the window and saw his brother, still sitting in his favourite chair, dead. He had had a massive heart attack and passed.
I have long looked back on that Christmas as a special one. Harry had been with us. I had taken the time to talk to him. We had all had a good time. And, then, he was gone.
In all the years since, I have reflected on the fragility of life, how it can be taken away from us just like that, and how it is precious. Not all share my belief, and there are times when it wavers with me, too. But, ever since, when I am talking to my parents, just as we ring off, I tell them that I love them, because I know that the day will come when I will be unable to tell them that. Harry gave me that final gift that day, 16 years ago, and it is the kind that keeps on giving.
I’ll never forget him, or that day.
Merry Christmas, one and all!