I’m all about traditions. Unfortunately I started one, years ago, that I wish I hadn’t. It’s the one where I aim to be physically impaired during the Christmas holidays. I’d like to blame it on my quarterback brother, Derek, but surely you know it’s my fault. My parents once asked, “Must you always play with such reckless abandon?” Yep. There was an on switch which I loved turning on and an off switch which I rarely found a use for.
I suppose I was born a bundle of pent up energy, so when a physical game of any type ensued I went full speed ahead like a crazed imp, until I was busted. It didn’t help with my foolish notion to be the only wide receiver/horticulturist in the NFL. It’s even more foolish when you realize that I never played any organized football in my life! I suppose it all started with my dad tossing the football to me in our backyard in Longview. I was a fast little elf, so he’d toss it as far as he could and I would sprint under it. Then brother number two took up quarterbacking and needed somebody to catch them. Folks would toss them and I’d catch them…no matter what.
Unfortunately this lead to broken toes, broken fingers, a broken collar bone, a broken wrist, a broken eye socket, and a broken ankle. And certainly the most ideal time in the world for playing football for a youngster is the Christmas holidays. After all, you’ve been shut up in school all semester and recently inundated with football on TV. Then suddenly you have a month with time on your hands and herds of other boys looking for something to do.
I’m sure most of you have or had mothers that were busy as bumble bees during the holidays. There are cards to send, decorations to deck, gifts to purchase and wrap, groceries to procure, and feasts to prepare. In hind sight, it turned out to be extremely irritating to mix in visits to the emergency room, doctor, pharmacy, etc. How was I to know this?
It all came to a head one December when my brother tossed the perfect bomb to me as I sprinted down the football practice field next to Lobo Stadium in Longview. As I grabbed it with my sticky, outreached fingers, one of his large football teammates pounced on my back. The next step ended with a loud pop when my ankle snapped. Unsurprisingly, they dragged me to the sideline where I writhed in pain as they finished the game. I distinctly remember that “You better not be hurt again” look in my mother’s frosty eyes when I hopped into the house on one leg. She was raised a tomboy, was in the middle of raising three active boys, and had zero tolerance for unnecessary whining. “It will feel better in the morning,” she assured. What she didn’t say, but I certainly understood, was “I’m very busy and don’t have time to deal with you and your constant orthopedic shenanigans!” I’m pretty sure I also heard her telepathically project “If your leg is broken, I’m going to break the other one using one of your good arms!”
So after shivering in pain all night, she hauled my crippled carcass to the hospital the next morning where I hopped in using a baseball bat for a crutch and wheeled out sporting a shiny white cast. And then came the classic line… “You are NEVER again allowed to leave the house during the Christmas holidays!” That was the year I got a skateboard for Christmas and scooted around the house on my butt while everybody stepped over me. Thankfully she only made the rule stick one year, as I drove her insane the following Christmas and was told “You are NEVER again allowed in the house during the Christmas holidays!” Folks sure get testy during the Yuletide. Thankfully she still allows me in the house to eat Christmas dinner each year with the family.
And thankfully that same busy, tired, hard working, loving momma hauled me to the hospital once again the week before this Christmas for my third hip surgery (on the same hip!). I’ve mostly given up football and she’s mostly given up banishing me from her house during the holidays but I did hear the family whispering about the possibility of sending Uncle Greg to the glue factory. They certainly wouldn’t have tolerated this in the old days.
So as I sit here on two pillows writing this month’s blog, with an ice pack strapped on like a toy pistol, I’m forced to think about happiness. To be, or not to be, is the question. Well certainly I choose to be. Life is way too short to be unhappy about anything. The world is full of gloom and doom, but it’s also full of wonder and magic. One only has to open their eyes and gristled little hearts to find it. Heck, I keep a healthy heaping of happiness right outside my doors and windows. I’m happy that my dogs love me. I’m happy that I grow my own veggies to eat. I’m happy that I raised the Cuckoo Maran rooster that helped make our Christmas dressing and gumbo. I’m happy that birds come to see me every day. I’m happy that I have an 8 acre green curtain of pine trees outback that beg me to walk under them each day. I’m happy that despite the fact that they now play their horns better than I do, my nephews and niece still let me play in the Arcadia All Star Cowboy Polka Band. And I’m happy to have good friends and family that put up with my soft heart and weak spine. I’m even happy thinking about every bone I broke, because I was outside doing something that I loved. Here’s hoping that you and yours find a most happy new year ahead. And if you don’t find it, you aren’t looking in the right spot! -Greg
PS: Thank you (again) Momma.