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Updated on January 12, 2011
The choir at church after Midnight Mass a few years back
The choir at church after Midnight Mass a few years back


As happens every year, people have been asking me for the last month, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

Some one once accused me of enjoying making people feel uncomfortable. Well, after reflecting on it and letting go of my defensiveness, I realized there is some truth to the accusation. “A little bit guilty as charged, your Honor!”

So in the past, that question would trigger a subtle diatribe. I wanted people to think about the so-called real meaning of Christmas, but I never wanted to use that phrase because my experience is that folks who do talk about the real meaning of Christmas are the same folks who ask their Hispanic in-laws at Christmas dinner what they think about Arizona’s immigration laws.

However, I would make subtle cynical remarks about all the stress related to buying gifts and the fact that maybe we will be dead the day after Christmas....enough to leave the person wishing they hadn’t asked me anything.

This year, because of an unplanned life journey, I have found myself actually wanting to be kind in responding to the question, and definitely not the grinch.

So I have heard myself saying things like, “Well, I’m not really sure if I am ready or not. But you know, I really like Christmas. I like the smell of the Christmas tree. I like making a fire and just sitting around with friends. I like Christmas dinner, especially the stuffing, and a turkey sandwich at midnight on Christmas day with cranberry sauce on it, no less! I even like to wait up for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. In recent years, I wait up for him in the spa! Yes, I still believe in that guy! I mean how else can I explain the reindeer poop on the roof, right next to the chimney, every Christmas morning? And last year, a bell was resting on one of the tiles, just about ready to roll off the roof. Would have been lost forever in the bushes below.”

Of course, the question comes back around to, “So are you done shopping?”

I want so much to say, “SHOPPING? FOR WHAT?” But this year, I have simply smiled and nodded my head. They don’t have to know what that nod means! Heck, I don’t even know what the nod means except it keeps me from being cynical.

But I do feel sad when they ask that question. Sad, because there are people on my non existent list to whom I would like to give cool and expensive gifts. But I can’t. So I also feel relief because I have no pressure to buy anything for anyone because I can’t buy anything for anyone.

It’s not that I am broke. Actually I’ve been “broke” for a long time, in a lot of different ways, and I’m finally getting “fixed.” Well, no, not fixed. That sounds like a huge loss. I am getting healed!

So back on track, I have an abundance of “funds” to take care of all the necessities and an abundance of creative energy to write poems instead of buying gifts. Maybe next year the abundance will overflow into some gift buying, but not at the expense of poetry.

The truth of the matter is, I’ve never been richer. And I am smiling as I write this to all of you who have been so supportive of my blogs, so supportive of my private practice, so supportive of my recent choice to live, really really live, so supportive of my choosing to love not only myself but all of you who have and are literally gracing my life and even those who I just come into contact with each day. I’m not sure I can define grace, but it seems like the correct word. Remember all that theology “stuff” about grace from Catechism? I always hoped I would meet Grace someday (in the cloak room), but it never happened! My silly humor aside, I am humbly grat(c)eful for each of you who are gracing my life.

Speaking of grace, Something fun happened at the train station this morning as I was waiting to board the Amtrak bus. Just about everyone in line was saying goodbye to someone as well as giving and receiving hugs. It was a touching scene, made for Hallmark! Something possessed me to say outloud, “Feels like I should be hugging someone.” Well, a man with a big smile who had just hugged his wife, opened his arms to me and gave me a wonderful hug. Told me to have a good trip and I told him I would see him when I get back! Just like we were old buddies. Wow! What a gift! It was as if he was standing in for all my friends and loved ones. I think I might do that the next time I see someone off on a trip and I see people who obviously have no one to say good bye to. Hopefully, I won’t get arrested! BUT that man’s simple kindness is the real meaning of Christmas.

So as I am writing this, I am on the Amtrak bus from San Bernardino to Bakersfield where I will catch the San Joaquin Valley Amtrak to Fresno where my four sisters and Candy live. Candy is like a fifth sister, not that I need anymore than four! If you have followed my previous blogs, you know about the cold room at Teri’s house where I stayed during Thanksgiving. She reassured me there will be no reindeer with red noses hanging from the meat hooks in the ceiling. And believe me there are hooks hanging from the ceiling. Yes, there are.

This is my first Christmas after leaving what was home for almost twelve years. I can’t say I am feeling lonely or alone because I am neither. I carry so many people in my heart right now that there wouldn’t be a bus big enough to take you all with me to Fresno, and there are so many people waiting for me in Fresno, that I just can’t qualify for the demographic alone or lonely. I am so grateful that sobriety has made it possible for me to know, to really know the experience of both loving and being loved.

Some say, that if all works the way life is supposed to, we have the profound experience of loving and being loved by the time we are nine months old (or not!) Well, obviously, I missed the train on that one! It has taken me an additional 64 years, but it has been worth the wait.

There’s a character on Facebook, called Ranger Jack. My sister, Marianne, posts entries from his journal. Ranger Jack is dying of cancer, and while on his journey with cancer, he has learned what it is to love and be loved. And, of all things, he has learned what it is like to have God stroke his face. It is well worth taking a jaunt over to Facebook to read some of his most recent journal entries.

Especially for those of you who are all growed up, and I imagine that is all of you who are reading this blog, I invite you to ask yourself this question. Do I not only know, but have I actually experienced loving and being loved? Have I had the experience of looking into the face of someone I refer to as “close,” and seeing in their face unmistakably and unconditionally that this person really loves me. And if not, then give yourself a Christmas present and ask, “Why not?”

And at least begin with yourself. As hokey as it sounds, spend sometimes gazing at yourself in the mirror. MAKE EYE CONTACT and repeat over and over, “I love you, (your name). Repeat over and over until you begin to cry. That’s how you will know you are “there.” The tears hold the sadness of it being so long and at the same time, they hold the joy that you are finally there, that place of genuinely loving yourself which opens up the door to loving others and being loved and becoming familiar with the old issue of God loving you.

This seems like a good stopping point except I can’t help wondering what the question will be the day after Christmas. “So are you ready for New Years?....Bankruptcy court?...Standing in the returns line?....Talking to your therapist about Christmas dinner with your wonderful relatives?” Of course then, you ask yourself, “What am I doing here in therapy? I’m the sane one. They need to be in here before I shoot them all.”

M-m-m. I wonder what that comment will do for my score? Hey, I’d be satisfied with a squirt gun or even one of those silly guns where the words BANG come flying out of the barrel.

Actually, for once, I am looking forward to Christmas dinner with my family, and I will dearly or is it sorely miss some of my family who will not be here for any number of reasons. Some of them are dead, for example! My son, David, who is alive, will be with Nef’s wonderful Mom and Dad and relatives. I will really really miss him and her.

I will also miss sitting down for Christmas dinner with my dear dear friends back home, not that we ever do, but I will be thinking about each and everyone of you tomorrow: Bruce, Dan and Maria, Bob, Kurt, Terri, Andrew, Emmett, and there is also Sandy, who unfortunately is layed up in a convalescent hospital with a severely broken ankle. Not a fun way to spend Christmas. I get nervous whenever I start mentioning friends’ names, because I risk leaving someone precious and important out.

There are also my many friends here on hubpages with whom I will probably never have Christmas dinner, especially folks like Karanda in Kangaroo country! It would be a blast to have Christmas dinner with Kim, Dean, Justom, Sylvia, Palmerlarry, 50 caliber, Jim, Amy who thinks I am as funny as Seinfeld, Lorlie, Suburban Poet, and AEvans. If I didn’t mention your name, and you feel badly, let me know!

Different from past years, I cannot foresee any hurricanes developing, namely in anyone’s alcohol-infected brain, including my own. It is so great to be truly sober. In the past, the hurricane usually touched down right after grace, speaking of grace, with some controversial discussion during which no one is really listening but only needing to make their points, points driven by alcohol and a need to know we are important and noticed, but points which have nothing to do with Christmas dinner nor the real meaning of Christmas.



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    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      That was great, felt like you speaking to me right here in my office, so relaxed a writing...MERRY CHRISTMAS...a question for you? Who wrapped the first Christmas gift? :O) Hugs G-Ma

    • vrbmft profile imageAUTHOR

      Vernon Bradley 

      7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Jus Tom who isn't Jus Tom, but TOM, as always thanks so much for reading and the kind comments.

      DUSTY, wow, it's one thing to be a prick, but to be a good prick and put the prick back in its scabber (?), wow, so awesome, brother.

      SYLIVA, excuse all this man talk!! Thanks for reading and commenting. I just read your blog about your mom and had another goood cry. Thanks for that gift. Merry Christmas


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Merry Christmas Vern. May it be happy, healthy and peaceful. Wonderful Hub.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      @justom, I know we crossed swords way back when over what I don't remember but I'm willing to put it back behind if you are, I been enjoying your comments since and was probably being a prick before, just don't remember and really don't care so Peace and merry holidays and a great 2011, old 50, Dusty

    • justom profile image


      7 years ago from 41042

      Vern, you are the funniest and most touching writer on HP. Reading this made me sad but more happy. I'll be spending tonight and tomorrow with my family (ex wife, Justin and ex's mother)and that's just fine with me but I'll tell you what man I wish you could be there, it's a very happy place to be. You're a fine man and I hope you have a great Christmas and a prosperous new year. I'm happy to know you brother! Peace and Love!! Tom

    • vrbmft profile imageAUTHOR

      Vernon Bradley 

      7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Merry Christmas, Dusty. I am so touched by your comment and I laughed my ass off about your wonderful (!) friend Jack! I use to give tours at one of the Old Missions, and the burro there took the finger of this really beautiful young woman and wouldn't let go!!! Imagine the look on our faces!! I screamed at the burro to no avail and then started hitting him on the nose!! Finger intact!!

      You shared a lot with all of us. Your sharing is personal and fresh. You are so loveable. I hope you know that. As I said, it would be wonder filled to sit down at Christmas dinner with you. Thanks for your support of my hubs. I will be thinking about you over the next couple of days.


      LOVE YOU


    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Well Vern, that was probably the very best thing I've ever read about this thing called Christmas, and you've given it a definition that is befitting of Christ. I started this at 0400 and now it's 0515, just enough time to dry my eyes, and the 6mg of Alprazolam to kick in to calm this nervous body. Your writing tore me up, but that's cool, 'cuz it'll be business as usual come day light, feeding chickens, gathering eggs, trying to sneak up on Jack and kick him before he kicks me, one day I'll beat that old burro, he cheats 'cuz he can see his back feet with out turning around. He used to didn't care until he figured out I was coming just to kick him in the leg, he's a sore looser 'cuz now he never lets me win and he don't know his own strength and I'm getting to slow to move some days and have to lay down in the dirt and roll around while the dogs play dog pile on the old geezer while I cuss the fuzz out of Jack. He brays most every time, he's figured out he's the winner.

      My animals love me unconditionally, that's what God made them for. I got me a dumped dog off the dirt road, she's a little Fiest and it took me a pound of bologna and an hour to touch the poor girl. I got her home and turned her loose inside and she would set back 10 feet and just stare at me, never let me touch her for 3 months or more. She was scared of people, somebody had done something to her I'd probably shoot them in the knees for. Then one day she charged me and jumped up 4 ft high and I caught her. She is sitting in my lap right now, she won't leave me and if I leave her she cries alligator tears, never seen a dog do that before, so most I find get adopted out but she, Taffy, is here to stay and I hope I out live her so she won't have to experience what ever it was that crushed her again. I'm a non-traditionalist as Christmas goes, but you may have changed my cynical self today; with "if it's Christs birthday, why are you getting gifts?" and my other cracks I toss at folks. I've been kinder this year and wished all well with what ever it is that they do that makes them happy. I shop the first week of December and swear off town until January 15th to make sure the crowds and fights are over before going back.

      Well I've said enough, and thank you for the gift my brother, Peace and Love, Dusty

      PS, you've earned a refrigerater magnet as I'll put this on the door.


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