When Shit Happens at Christmas (or It’s a Wonderful Life – I think) with Clarence the Angel
Shit happening anytime sucks. But as we all know, life is full of it – well not always – but sometimes. But why does sometimes have to happen at Christmas? Oh I know why … because it just does.
Problems, issues, accidents and related unfortunateness don’t use the calendar. They come about just because, and I have learned that the way to greet them is with open arms. Fighting it just makes it worse.
My sister had a fairly strong stroke on December 15. I was on a train coming up from New York City to my friend’s house in Connecticut when my mom called to say my sister had fallen and was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. I was on the train because a friend’s brother had just passed away. With a coffee cake in hand, I was on my way to sit Shiva – sort of a Jewish wake. I always had tons of Jewish friends yet I’d never sat Shiva and definitely never around Hanukkah! Daniel’s passing happened just after Hanukkah and well that sucked too. See – like I said – bad things don’t know from the calendar.
My sister is only 61. And if I hear another person say – Oh my God, she’s so young and at Christmas, aw, I will fucking scream! I want to scream loudly like Shirley Maclaine in Terms of Endearment …“SHIT HAPPENS! AND SHIT DOESN’T KNOW FROM A CALENDAR!!!” But of course I don’t – I just say – ya it sucks.
But really – why at Christmas? Why just before Christmas? Everyone is full of red and green cheer, they’re all garlanded up with tinseled optimism topped by a sparkly star of joy. And me? I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach by the Grinch, knocked in the head by Scrooge and thrown into a ditch by Mr. Potter (you know the guy who wants to ruin George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life).
But like George Bailey after he’s convinced to go on living by Clarence the Angel, I refuse to give up. I refuse to sell my cheer to the dark side. And I am definitely not planning to jump off a bridge. Nor do I want to run down the streets of my childhood to see how the world would have been had I never been born. On the contrary.
Since my sister’s stroke, I’ve been spending time in and around the town where I grew up. It’s familiar, cozy and comfortable to be around the places and people of my childhood. It’s nice actually.
Like today for instance. Because my sister had no health insurance at the time of her stroke (she’ll get it after January 1st), I had to go to the Department of Social Services to enroll her in Medicare. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. Just not on my top 10 list of things to do just before Christmas.
I was dreading it even though their office is just behind the hospital where my Mom worked for over 20 years, near the grammar school my Dad was the Principal of and actually down the street from my first real girlfriend (no snickers please). I didn’t want to go, but I had to.
With much anxiety and even a tinge of fear, I walked into the office building of the Department of Social Services with all my paperwork plus copies of all my paperwork, my sister’s driver’s license, her social security number and the power of Attorney letter. I expected to be in a room with 1000 people clamoring for the same thing … help from the State. But instead of waiting for hours only to be seen by an uncaring, heartless functionary, I was met by Jane, who said “Oh I know your last name, your dad was my grammar school Principal. How can I help? “
Jane was phenomenal. She’s been working at the Department of Social Services for 12 years and couldn’t have been more helpful, sweet and kind. She processed my sister’s paperwork in record time and touched my hand when a tear fell from my eye – a stress-induced drop of relief. She helped me more than she could ever have imagined. Jane made me really know that Angels are not just in heaven but live among us. I thought Jane is like Clarence. She came into my life to make me realize that I could get through and that things will somehow work out.
At the risk of doling out advice, I’d say that when shit happens – even at Christmas, the first thing you need to do is nothing. Don’t fight it or try to make it go away. Let it in. Let it be apart of your life. Don’t jump off a bridge or wonder what things would be like if all this never existed. Instead remember that things do happen for a reason and with some luck, you just might meet an Angel – your own Clarence.
Merry Christmas George Bailey!