Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, Magoo! You've Done It Again!

This morning I was ambivalent about Christmas. I'm thrilled with the presents I got my niece and nephew and cannot wait for our gift exchange later this afternoon. But as always with my family -- with every family, to some degree, I suppose -- there is going to be tension. My mom is sad about the breakdown of communication with my uncle. My sister is not sensitive to my wanting to end my Christmas Eve and welcome my Christmas Day with worship at my church, so we may not be entirely finished with gifts and dinner by the time I have to leave …

So I popped in my old VHS tape of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Aside from fact that I was transported back to the first time I saw it (when I was about 6 or 7, in black and white, in a darkened spare bedroom at my grandmother's house, it was the first time I met these Dickens' characters), it also reminded of the message:

It's Christmas Eve and we're together.

It may not be perfect. But it will be memorable, especially for my niece and nephew. And who knows how many more Christmases we'll be able to celebrate together?

This is why I love movies. They get through to me … fast. I have learned much from books, too, naturally. But Magoo managed to penetrate my cranium and heart in little more than a hour. And I'm grateful.

Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!

Truer words were never spoken

"If you take their money, you have to take their shit."
"God bless the child that's got her own."

Not very Christmasy sentiments, I know, but they do seem to sum up what's happening with my family this holiday season.

My uncle's life is miserable these days. We're approaching the one-year anniversary of his wife's death, and he is dying himself -- slowly and painfully from Parkinson's. His world is becoming smaller and smaller, as he tires easily and is less willing to allow people to witness his spasms. I remember how he used to downhill ski and compete in 5k races and my heart breaks. So much of what has defined him as been taken away.

HOWEVER, it's important to note that when he was healthy and whole, he could be a real jerk. I love him, and he's always been good to me, but that doesn't cloud my vision. He's very wealthy, and he has long believed that gives him power over others. I don't accept that premise, so he and I have never clashed. We have, however, had our tense moments.

"Who do you think I should leave my money to?" he has asked. If I say I don't care (which I don't), I am diminishing the accomplishment he's proudest of -- the accumulation of wealth. If I say "me," then I'm just another bloodsucker who wants his money. There's no winning this tiresome game, so I won't play. I have told him alternately to give it to my mom (his sister) and to make provisions for his cat. This seems to disappoint him, and it annoys me.

He's become very hard on my mom, summoning her to his side regardless of what's going on in her life, yet refusing to come see her when invited. Likewise he has become more and more demanding on my cousin, his only child. Sometimes he uses guilt -- "I'm going to be all alone," "I hope this is my last Christmas." More often he uses money -- "I don't care that it's Christmas. I'll get my caretaker to drive out and get you. She'll do what I say because I pay her." Last week he said this within earshot of his caretaker, which upset my mother terribly. Or he'll carefully time his, "I wonder who I should leave my money to?" game, implying that if you don't show up when he snaps his fingers, he'll bequeath his wealth to someone else. It isn't that my mom and cousin want his money; it's that they resent the implication that they can be bought.

It saddens me to see him alienate the people who love him most. It saddens me to watch him willfully shrink his world and ruin his own Christmas. I've sent him cards and notes and one-of-a-kind gifts (a personalized ornament, a CD I mixed especially for him) to reassure him that I love him and am thinking of him. But I don't feel like talking to him in real time because resent how upset he's left my mom and I don't want to play his games. 

I remember the uncle who bought me my first-ever Beatle record, who took me skiing for the first time, who let me bring him to school for "show and tell" when he was home on leave from Viet Nam. I love that man, and I hope he's still in there somewhere. I wish he could be healthy and whole again and in the holiday spirit, but that is simply not going to happen.