First, some old business. On December 1, someone (Anonymous) posted a comment (which for some reason did not show up until today) about me singing Frank Sinatra's My Way in Mr. Moorman's Chemistry class and Mrs. Risner's English class. In my music list published in September, I failed to include it. While it has not remained one of my favorites, it was in fact at one time one of them. I learned to play My Way on the piano in Shera Baker's living over in Treasure Island. I still play it often as it is one of the few songs I was actually taught to play, by Shera no less, as opposed to most of my music which I picked up by ear. But Shera and I were never in class together so whoever posted that comment has to be someone in my class, another person who probably turned 50 this year. Whoever it was, I appreciate your reminder about what was once one of my favorite songs.
With that out of the way - sort of, we'll get back to the turning 50 - today is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to all of you, Christian or not. Christmas is at once a religious holiday, a cultural one, and significantly a commercial one. Most people get something out of it, even the atheists. That's all fine with me.
I used to get more out of Christmas than I do nowadays. Growing up Christmas was a big, big deal. We celebrated five different places usually, the main one being at home with my maternal grandparents where me, my mother, and my brother lived. We usually had relatives staying one or two nights, either Aunt Dorothy, my grandmother's aunt, or Uncle Milford, my grandfather's little brother. We'd also go to my Dad's house, and to my Dad's parents' house, as well as my great-grandparents' houses in Frankfort - the Lewis family home on Old Louisville Road and the Hockensmith home, originally on Devils Hollow Road, but later on Cavern Drive off what used to be called Parkside Drive but is now the West Frankfort Connector.
Most of those people are dead - my great-grandparents (I knew four of my great-grandparents, six if you count step-great-grandmothers), all of my grandparents, Aunt Dorothy, and Uncle Milford, and quite a few others. Even a generation closer, my dad's older brother, Uncle Don to everyone who knew him, has been dead since April 2005. The family members have been replaced generationally by my brother's children - six of them, ranging in age from 23 to 7. So, at least the Christmas morning part of Christmas is reserved for them. The youngest three are still at my brother's house and while I didn't this year, I have been over there in Christmasses-past to see the wild abandon of opening presents.
The adults in my family, along with these three youngest members, will gather later this week at my Mom's for our family celebration, a small but nice affair. We'll eat dinner and exchange presents, many of which will be gift cards. My mother decides the day we actually celebrate (not only Christmas but all the other holidays including birthdays) based on a number of factors with this year's decision being complicated by her not feeling well the last week or so.
For me, Christmas has come to mean attending Mass. Over the years I've done so mostly at Holy Family, my church home for just over thirty years, up until this year. When I was in my twenties, I regularly attended with a number of college friends at Saint Francis of Assisi. A few times I went to the Cathedral of the Assumption downtown, once to St. John's UCC downtown, and a few other times I went to the Episcopal Church of the Advent, the church I finally joined very early this year after wandering in the religious desert for several years, all the while maintaining an active membership at Holy Family. Since joining Advent, I've tried to be just as active there as I was in my old church.
Christmas comes just once a year, so the song goes. Frankly, as I get older, I am thankful for that. Getting older, by the way, is what 2010 has mostly meant for me. While I had a very busy and successful year politically, all of that has been internally overshadowed by two related events - being 49 while anticipating being 50, and actually being 50, which I've honestly not yet mastered as I've at this point passed the 1/3 mark of my 51st year. For most of the year being 49, I recognized that I was getting older. I'm still apparently healthy despite significant health problems when I was 44. I'm also still active enough to enjoy myself. But I also realized that there is lots left to do.
On September 23rd I turned 50, celebrating in grand proportion (as far as I'm concerned) with a party (on the 19th) attended by 175 people and recorded for posterity and subsequently posted on my Facebook page. Friends from throughout my life attended and I was very pleased. My entire family was there at some point as was many in my current political family, noticeably my congressman who stayed for most of the three hour party. But then, instead of "getting" older, I actually got older when the 23rd rolled around four days after the party.
Suddenly, the terminus of my life is not so far away. Hopefully it is still well on down the road, but I am likely much closer to the end than the beginning. And that has not been a pleasant experience thus far. In all of my life, while I've had a few relationships, none of them have lasted long, and none of them have been entirely fulfilling. And now, at 50, I've come very close to deciding that I do not want to be alone as I wander into the twilight of my life a few years from now. And I've decided that there are things left to do which cannot be left undone. That famous "bucket list" that people have is rather full for me and the time has come to do something about that.
My guess is that means more than making new friends and going to new places. It also entails a new attitude about what and who is and isn't important. While I have few extremely close friends, I am blessed to have lots of friends, many of whom I've kept as friends for ten, twenty, thirty, and even a few for forty years. I've also worked hard at creating and maintaining a friendship base with those ten, twenty, and even thirty years younger than me. Somehow I think that helps keep one's outlook in perspective, as there are far more people younger than me in control of society than those of my age or older. Even President Obama is younger than me. Having young friends is also good for the soul. Further, some with whom I've been close the last few years are finding their own ways, independent of my control or influence. While it is hard to let go of some of that, it is also a necessary component of life but one that is fairly new to me. In particular my friend Keith, whom I first met in 2000, has departed with his new partner for New York to do whatever it is that people do when they are in their mid-20s and free of most any restraints. And I'm very happy for him and have been supportive when asked. I love him dearly.
I've also decided to divorce myself from a very limited number of people, although I'm not quite sure I'm fully prepared to do so. Thus far there has been only one on that list although I suspect 2011 will see a few more be set aside. And I've decided to aggressively pursue some new friends while I have time to do so. Such pursuit is the direct result of one conversation I had with the one person I've thus far set aside. I hope it will work. I have no idea if it will or not.
I have other plans for 2011. One is to continue the diet I've been upon since November 3rd. I've lost 25 pounds so far, just under half my goal. I'm very happy about that - it is the first time I've lost weight in twenty years. Ironically, the last time I went on a diet, twenty years ago, one reason was because I thought I was getting older. Now I am; now I have to.
My hope is 2011 will see siginificant change in my life. I'm not all that sure what that change might be, but I am planning to engage it, envelope myself in it, and enjoy it for all it may be worth. That's my Christmas present to myself. A renewal of my life plan. It is the best Christmas present I've given myself in a long time, perhaps the best ever. We'll see how it goes.
I hope Christmas has been and is and will be for you as rewarding as what I am planning for it to be for me. To my seven faithful readers, and all the rest of you, Merry Christmas and God's Blessings.
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