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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A peaceful holiday...

I wish for all of you – a very peaceful holiday season. Living with an alcoholic can feel noisy and chaotic. So the carol “Silent Night” takes on a whole new meaning for us caretakers. A silent night is what we really want and I truly hope you get that – even just for a little while – sometime during the upcoming week.

My Christmas suggestion to you is:

To the Caretaker – take care of yourself. Treat yourself to some special time doing exactly what you would like to do. Read a book. Take a bubble bath. Go fishing. Take a walk. Go to a concert. Get a massage. Do whatever makes you feel at peace.

To the Alcoholic – the gift I suggest you give is not just for you, but for everyone in your family who loves you. There should be links on the left side of my blog for rehab centers that are advertising on my site. Click one of them. If there’s none there – search for one on the internet – there are many. Some of them have on-line chat so you can talk to a counselor TODAY. Even if you don’t agree to go into rehab, at least TALK to someone about it today. Give yourself the gift of a full, happy and productive life. Discover the world outside the body. Be the person that everyone, except you, knows you can be. And, give your caretaker the gift of seeing you happy. That’s all any of us really want.

A friend of mine wrote about when the right time is to tell your kids that there isn’t a Santa Claus. To that I say NEVER!! I wrote a story based on an actual experience that I had intended to submit to a contest on the trauma of telling your kids about Santa. Since I lost track of time, I didn’t get it submitted in time. So my Christmas gift to all my readers is this story. I hope you all enjoy it.

My Santa Story

No one gets through childhood without the harsh glare of reality that the real Santa does not sit on a big red chair in the middle of a large department store. How absurd! Everyone knows he is really in his workshop at the North Pole working with the Elf’s creating all those wonderful toys that are loaded into his big black bag. Just the idea that there may not even be a workshop is so disheartening that the child in cringes at the mere thought.

During my days as a reporter for the local newspaper, I was assigned the task of writing an obit for a gentleman who died just a few days before Christmas. Harry Barker was the owner of a small auto garage in an eclectic area of town known as the “Village.” He settled there as a young man, got married and raised four daughters, one of which, Susan, was a mechanic who worked with him in the garage.

I attended Mr. Barker’s Christmas Eve memorial service. He was highly regarded in the community. He often extended credit on just a handshake. If a customer was in hard financial times, the bill simply got “lost” in the shuffle of paperwork on his desk.

I offered my condolences to Mrs. Barker. I told her I would pray that she would get through the holidays with wonderfully sweet memories. To my surprise, she looked up at me and said “Oh dear, I don’t know what to do about Santa. What am I supposed to do?” I took her hand and tried to reassure her that everything would be OK. But she insisted, “Harry is gone and I’m the only one who knows! You have to help me.” I tried to stay calm while trying to calm Mrs. Barker, but calming people down just wasn’t my forte. I truly did not understand.

I asked her, “What can I do to help?” To my surprise she said, “There’s a list. We have to find it.” She grabbed my coat and tossed it to me as she hurried for the door asking Susan, for the shop keys as she tried to slip by her.

“Mom, let’s wait and go to the shop in the morning. We have guests. Whatever is it, it can wait.” Susan gently tried to redirect her Mother back toward the guests. But, Mrs. Barker was insistent. “No. There isn’t much time. Susan.” And with that we proceeded to walk the three blocks to the shop in confused silence.

Mrs. Barker searched through her husband’s desk, opened all the cabinets, and then… in the back of the shelves, among countless Haynes auto repair books, she found what she was looking for -- an old-fashioned frayed green cloth account book. She opened the book and we saw 1956 written in large block numbers across the top of the page. Below the year there was a list of names and addresses in one column and a description of something in the second column. The book contained year after year of the same sort of list. The last entry was the current year, 1998, and, just like the other years, there was a list of names.

Mrs. Barker sat behind the desk with Susan and me waiting for an explanation. “Harry loved this community. He had such a big heart and felt so blessed to have so much in our lives. We really didn’t want for much of anything. We had financial independence, beautiful girls, our life was full. Harry saw so much trouble in the lives of others and he was driven to give people help and hope.”

“Mom, everyone knows how generous Dad was. It was no secret.” Susan quietly reminded her mother.

Mrs. Barker continued, “You really didn’t know. He wouldn’t tell any of you girls that he wanted to be Santa Claus.”

I sat in the old wooden chair listening and shades of clarity were beginning to form. “Mrs. Barker, are you saying that Harry acted as Santa to people outside his family?”

“Yes! Yes! He wrote down names all year long. These people were ones who had done some unnoticed good deed for someone else. Some of the people would have had difficulty providing Christmas dinner or gifts for their own children. He wrote them all down. Here. Right here.” Like a fog that lifts in the afternoon sun, Susan and I could clearly see what Mrs. Barker was trying to tell us.

“Remember? After Christmas Eve dinner your father always had to go back to work for some reason or another? Yes, he went to the shop, but not to work. He put together baskets of things, food, toys, clothing, gift certificates, and maybe even a small tree. Then he took them around to the different houses on his list and dropped them at the front door. Sometimes he’d do a ‘ring and run’ thing. Sometimes, he’d call them anonymously from the shop and tell them to go to their front door. If was so much fun for him and he was always exhilarated when he returned home.”

Mrs. Barker and Susan decided not to let Harry’s tradition die. They took over his identity of Santa Claus and although Harry was gone – Santa was not. I helped them load the baskets and deliver them to the names on the list.

It was revealed to me at a very young age by my older brother and cousins, that Santa was really my parents. I was devastated. If there was no Santa, there was no hope of me ever getting anything I really wanted at Christmas. But, on the Christmas Eve of 1998 at the age of 34, I learned that there really was a Santa Claus named Harry.

The reality is there are probably a lot of real-life Santa’s out there, but mostly Santa is in the heart of everyone who believes in the good of other people.


Syd said...

Merry Christmas to you and Riley. That was a great story.

Ann said...

Merry Christmas, Linda, to you and to Riley, Jade and Jax. What a lovely story about the true meaning of Christmas. I do believe that Santa lives amongst us, and the spirit of the holidays brings him alive.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "awww" moment. It's inspiring to know love exists in such a tangible form.

Eclectic Bohemian said...

Thank you, Linda. I so needed to read this tonight♥