Here’s a secret, a Christmas secret.
I’m a softie, a sentimental, not-so-old fool, who cries more often that I care to admit.
Sad things make me cry.
But happy events are most often the reason for my tears.
After 60 years, I’ve learned to hide my emotions. In public, I’m pretty stoic. But at home, at night, Beatrix, my white pit bull, knows the real me. She’s seen my tears. She has licked those tears. AndB she’s also a good hugger. That helps.
I never know when the happy tears will arrive. It could be in the middle of a TV show, or a commercial, or a song, or a photo I see on Facebook. They’re always a surprise.
I can plan for the sad tears. Funerals, the ending of that fourth Toy Story movie. Clint Eastwood making the ultimate sacrifice at the end of “Gran Torino.”
I shed a lot of happy tears this time of year. Good things tend to happen during the holiday season. When I’m a witness, I sometimes shed a tear. But it’s a happy cry.
I spend lots of time alone. That’s OK. I’m used to it. I lived alone from about 20 to 40. Then I got married. I divorced before I turned 50. There were no kids. And I’ve lived by myself since.
No wife, no kids. That’s the reason Christmas is not my favorite time of year.
Most people love this holiday season.
I’m OK with it.
Others hate it.
I don’t. But I’m OK with those who do. I understand all of those emotions.
I get by looking for and experiencing the joy in others. If I get a chance to add a little something good to someone else’s holiday experience. I do that, too. There is a lot of joy in giving.
I used to be a great present shopper. For the young nieces and nephews in my life. And for special special friends at certain times in their lives. Their smiles, their reactions — even though at times they receive their gifts anonymously, can make my day, or week, or season.
Mostly, I live vicariously through my friends and relatives. The positive circumstances and happenstances in their lives make me smile. Their happiness, their new memories, their life-changing experiences makes me smile.
That’s always a good thing.
I tend not to share a lot of personal information. Few people know me well.
If I never watched the Cleveland Browns on TV — while I’m perusing Facebook — my sarcasm and my temper would be an even bigger secret. I bottle things up. I put a lid on my negative emotions and rarely let them out. Clamp that lid tight enough, and those feelings stay buried for eternity.
That’s probably not a healthy recipe for life, but neither is leftover pizza for breakfast … and somehow I make that work.
My mom died this year. She had been a resident at Signature Health Care for the past two Christmas seasons. It was sad seeing her go deeper into her dementia. I don’t know that she fully understood what was going on around her last Christmas. That was heart-breaking, because Christmas was mom’s holiday.
An only child, growing up on State Street in Mansfield, mom may have been a bit spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa Bowman. For that reason, family Christmas activities were a must for the Kent clan. We planned the crap out of the holidays.
We baked Christmas cookies, strung popcorn, made popcorn balls, made candy, decorated above and beyond the call of duty and visited and shared with family … a lot. There were mornings growing up when the Kent kids — let alone grandparents, family friends and others — wouldn’t fit into our living room because there were so many gifts around the tree.
We got together on Christmas Eve, for a Christmas breakfast and then to open gifts. In the afternoon some of us played, some of us tried to nap, but only for a couple hours. There were too many games to play or toys to put together. But after getting our second wind, we’d chat and share and laugh and play until 8 p.m. That’s when we broke out the leftovers.
In the days after Christmas, we’d get together with the out-of-town relatives before ringing in the New Year when a raucous game of family Bingo. Of course there was the family meal of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Day.
My sisters do a wonderful job carrying on the Christmas traditions in our family — for their own families and for my dad. In a way, I think they do it for me, too. I’m thankful for that.
I saw a video on Facebook last week. It was the U.S. Air Force Band performing at the NASA Air and Space Museum in Washington. It was one of those flash mob videos. I love those. And it made me cry. I’m not certain why, but I think it was the look of pure joy in the faces of those who happened to be at the museum that day.
Be an observer this time of year. Being able to see the joy and happiness in others is a good trait. Some people have no clue how others are doing, or feeling. Despite my gruff demeanor, I have a lot of empathy running through my body.
I also still have a lot of family, and they get me through this holiday season. We’re not as extended as some. Still, we’re in Galion, Columbus, the greater Philo area, Delaware, Wooster, Mansfield, Brunswick, other parts of northern Ohio, Michigan, Philadelphia, Florida and elsewhere.
Except for weddings and funerals, I rarely see these loved ones in person. But thanks to Facebook, I’m able to keep track of how how they are doing. I love watching my siblings and their kids; my ex-wife’s siblings and their kids; and my cousins, nieces and nephews and their families growing and adding new members and getting engaged or married.
I feel the same way about the children of my best friends, who are now getting married and having their own kids.
We all deserve happiness. No matter where we find it.
So this holiday season, if you’re feeling a little down, look at those around you. Be happy for them.
Seriously, take some time to enjoy their joy. Think and revel in their happiness. It’s not that hard to do.
And a smile will soon come to your face, too.