Memory is tricky when you’re in your late 60s. In a few days I will be 68 and a couple of days after that, I will be living in my 70th calendar year. Born in 1950, I only lived about a day and a third in that first calendar year and was in my second one to live really fast. And so it is for December babies – they add up calendar years in which they’ve lived faster than say a person born in January who lives almost a whole year before hitting that second numbered year. So when starting my 69th year upon finishing 68, the numbers just keep piling up. I suppose piling up years is better than not doing so.
Where was I? Yes – memory. And all of us likely have sad memories. We may all have things we wished we had never done. Some may have suppressed ones. The sad ones do something to help us grow, maybe help us understand life in some respect that we would not have otherwise, and should not be wished away or wished they never were. Every experience forms who we are. Would life have been better without sadness? Sure, but that’s an alternative history – you are who you are because of your life as it was lived and experienced.
My family was poor. Do I wish otherwise? Not really. My foundation created a lot of the principles on which I live today. There was no family charitable foundation created by gifts from others to even pay my $7 membership in the Boy Scouts, so there was no scouting for me. My foundation was poverty, on welfare, standing in line at the township trustees’ office for food, having a roof that leaked with rain, and other aspects of life without a lot of money. Living was based on my grandmother’s love and surviving.
I recall one Christmas when we kids only received an orange. Food was good – and an orange was a treat. We went to a church that always passed out candy the Sunday before Christmas. It was a box of hard candy and that was a treat, too. There was another year when my toy cars started disappearing in the weeks before Christmas and I unwrapped them, repainted, Christmas morning. There was another Christmas when the Marines took my sister and me downtown to shop for clothes as a part of that year’s Toys for Tots campaign – it was the first time I remember ever eating at a restaurant (Woolworth’s counter on the Circle in Indianapolis). The Marines also gave us what seemed like a room full of toys Christmas morning that year. That was a big year.
How did all of that impact my life? There are many ways, but a few include such things as an appreciation for everything possessed. Thankfulness. There is a strong need to use every bit of a product – waste not. Environmental concerns. There’s a strong urge to give to help others. Charity. There’s a lot more joy in giving than receiving. Unselfish. And that last one sometimes gets me in a little trouble because I may seem embarrassed or not thrilled in getting something whereas it’s the opposite in that I’m grateful, but also more inclined to be happier giving.
So, every Christmas, a lot of these thoughts ramble through my aging brain cells. Some of these memories will always be there. They form my being in a lot of respects. And I wish for others life without sadness or, if not possible, the ability to cope and use that sadness to form a basis to benefit others.