The Zen of Charles Schulz

CharlieBrown

So right now I could be working on Christmas cards or studying for my Personal Trainer exam or writing something for my blog. The first two are fairly urgent and time sensitive.  I’m kind of on a deadline for both.  They’re both important to me for different reasons and I know I would regret not prioritizing either one of them.

Guess you figured out which one I picked…

I heard a few days ago that A Charlie Brown Christmas was turning 50 this year.  It first aired on television in December 1965.  Not sure how the news source I was listening to worked the math on that one…    But have a feeling that NEXT December there will be lots of 50th anniversary tributes and accolades for my good buddy Chuck and his sad little Christmas tree.

I’ll just start it off a year early.

I remember watching A Charlie Brown Christmas when it aired for the first time.  I was 11 years old and had just moved to Kentucky from Pennsylvania to live with my father and step-mother.  My own, dear mother passed away just a little over two months before and left a huge empty space in my chest where my heart used to be.  I was devastated.

I had never lived with my father before that I remember.  My parents were separated when I was very young, and he moved out of state when I was six to marry his new wife.  After he moved, I saw him probably once a year.  And I had no clue he had remarried until I met his wife for the first time when they came to get me to bring me down to Kentucky after Mom’s funeral.

Surprise!

These were the days before there were grief support groups for kids who lost a parent.  The days before there were divorce support groups for kids from “broken” homes.  The days before counseling was considered an option for a child adjusting to the abrupt and sudden loss of her immediate and extended family, her school, all her friends and the only home she had ever known.  They just patted you on your back and said, “Sorry ‘bout your luck.  Now buck up!”

You were just expected to suck it up and move on.  No moping allowed.

Shortly after I moved to Kentucky, my father got me a small, used, portable black and white TV for my room.  Like all TV’s back in the day, my little portable had antennas to get the paltry four – count ’em, four – stations that were available at that time. The reception was horrible on my little TV.  Lots of snow and static and fuzzy pictures.  Those darned rabbit ears.

But I honestly think that television was my salvation.  It was something magical.  It transported me to places and into stories that made me forget…   Shows like The Wonderful World of Disney or The Ed Sullivan Show or I Dream of Jeanie would suck me in and I’d forget for a couple of hours that I was a lonely stranger in a strange land living with strangers.

Most of all, I loved the shows that made me laugh.  Red Skelton, The Munsters, McHale’s Navy, The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island. And Looney Tunes cartoons – they were my favorite.  Tweety Pie was the bomb.  Bring it on Puddy Tat…  The more ridiculous and absurd, the more I laughed.

There was solace in laughter.  Healing.  All those good endorphins.  I was too young to drink or do drugs to feel better, but I sure could laugh.  Probably better for me in the long run…

Enter A Charlie Brown Christmas on my little TV in December 1965. Boy, could I relate to Charlie Brown.  I was living his life.  Nothing was going right.  I was full of self-doubt and anxiety.  I had no control over anything that was happening to my life.  I felt like a piece of sh*t.  Charlie Brown was my soulmate!  And I watched that little guy try so hard to make sense of everything, and try make something really dreadful into something beautiful and happy.  He just knew down in his soul there had to be more, and that it was full of love and healing and joy.  And he was right.

It’s been a long time since Linus first stood on that stage helped Charlie Brown understand the real meaning of Christmas.  49 years to be exact.  But I’ve never forgotten the simple lessons I learned from my soulmate and my little black & white TV.  Never, ever give up hope that even the saddest thing can be transformed into something amazing, and laugh a lot.

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!!

What Would Clarence Do?

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Today is the century anniversary of the birth of my father. 100 years.  Triple digits. January 3, 1914.  MY father.  Granted that he was older when I was born, but still….  Holy cow – a century!!

He journeyed from this world to the next at the beginning of the new millennium.  I’m so thankful that, until he broke his hip and died ten days later, he was relatively healthy, had a sharp, quick mind and memory, and lived independently.

He and his wife moved the two hundred miles in 1991 to relocate to our city, like so many other aging parents, when health issues forced their hand.  My step-mother had Alzheimer’s.  So we lived within 12 miles of each other for the last 9 years of his life.  A chance for redemption I thought.  I was wrong.

My father was not a nice man.  Any relationship he had spoiled like milk soured after not being put back in the fridge before a vacation.  He was simply incapable of loving anybody but himself and left a family of walking wounded in his wake.  My mother, myself and my siblings, our spouses, his grandchildren, his wife – we all bear or bore the scars of his extreme narcissism.

In the very last episode of the 80’s era TV show Dallas, JR was able to see how much better life would have been for most of the people in his life if he had never been born.  The same might be said about my father.  His really, wasn’t a wonderful life.  I wonder how Clarence would’ve handled that one?

So no redemption was found in proximity; in the naive idea that physical closeness would result in everything finally being made right and good and whole.   But it hit me this week – it’s there!  It’s tucked deep down in the DNA helixes passed on.   His children and grandchildren.

Happy 100th Daddy.