Two sides of Christmas

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

By Rex Alphin

It was that time of year. The Baker family was alive with excitement. This was the one time they all came together. Children and grandchildren and food and … well, just everything.

There was something extraordinary about the whole family getting together. Children were evaluated for their growth spurts. Food was savored with a new satisfaction. The old folks talked about their recent aches and pains and what medicine was working, while the young sized up their cousins with competitive eyes.

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The piles of presents under the tree provided fodder for the annual, incomparable anticipation as red and green ran its course throughout the house. The children could barely contain their excitement, knowing what was in store. Why, even the tree itself seemed to shout Christmas carols through the lights.

Giggles and running and parents trying to control their offspring. Granny, immersed in her family’s activities, glanced through her window at the magical night, wondering at the festivities going on in other households.

Four doors down from the Baker household, Ted Lansing sat in his rocker, gazing through the small panes of his living room window. The house was quiet, save for the rhythmic creak of his chair and the predictable furnace fan coming to life each time the room reached its recognizable coolness.

Ted had buried two wives, the last succumbing to a cancer that eventually won the battle against her courageous struggle. Much to his despair, neither marriage had produced offspring. Ted himself was an only child and, at age 89, had watched the burial of most of his friends.

Tonight — especially tonight — he felt his aloneness, as the spirit in the air seemed to magnify the silence in his household. Ted had not lived in the neighborhood long enough to make many friends, nor did he want to infringe on family gatherings he knew were taking place around him. He had come to accept his lot in life, but the foreseeable future was sometimes too much to bear.

He sat and rocked, hoping sleep would provide an early release for him tonight. Occasionally, a few notes of music from the Baker festivities drifted down and made their way into Ted Lansing’s house.

But, you know, at 89, it can be difficult to hear.