On the Beat: A visit from the 3 spirits of Christmas

The classic holiday tale, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, was published for the first time in London way back in December 1843. Many variations of the tale have been offered through the years, including several films. One of the most popular that often airs this time of year is the Bill Murray comedy, “Scrooged.”

You know the story: Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Searching for something to watch on late-night TV a few days ago, I stopped on “Scrooged” and caught the last 10 minutes — the heartwarming scene when Frank Cross (played by Murray) interrupts a television production and goes on camera to share his new visions on the meaning of Christmas while reuniting with a lost love from his youth. A traumatized young boy even spoke his first words in five years, “God bless us, everyone.”

I’d like to think I’m a fairly decent human being. I don’t fit the mold of miserly, greedy or stingy that would necessitate visits from three spirits to set me straight. But I’ll throw out my variation on the Dickens story.

Spirit of Christmas Past

Scene 1: My brother, Terry, and I are sitting on the living room floor near the Christmas tree. We were living in Aurora, Nebraska, and it’s 1971, maybe 1972. Terry, who was eight years older than me, was looking after me that evening with my parents out of the house.

Terry thought it would be a good idea to open a present. He picked one out and started to very carefully remove the tape in a way to not tear the wrapping paper. There could be no evidence that he had opened it. After several minutes, he pulled the box free of its concealment to find a tape recorder.

We played with the tape recorder for a while, plugging it in and inserting a tape that my mother had thoughtfully included. I remember Terry recording his own voice about his plan to urinate into the town swimming pool the next summer from the top of the highest diving board. (Side note: He held a grudge after getting kicked out of the pool the previous summer and no, he didn’t really pee into the pool).

Scene 2: My parents had gone out one evening in December 1978. We were living in an apartment in Mesa, Arizona. There was no tree up, but I knew my mother had wrapped Christmas gifts.

I recalled what my brother had done years earlier and how he never got caught. I wondered if I could pull it off, so I went into my parents’ bedroom and took a peek in the closet. Sure enough, there were several wrapped gifts.

I picked out a big one and carefully began to open, trying not to tear the wrapping paper like my brother had years earlier. I got one end open and could see that it was an electric slot car set. But I didn’t continue pulling it out of the paper. I taped the end up again and returned it to its previous position in the closet.

Lesson: On the first occasion, I’d have to say the deed was orchestrated by my big brother. Heck, I was only 6 or 7 years old. But I knew it wasn’t right. Then years later, I repeated the act and this time, I should’ve known better. We deceived our parents by getting into a gift that’s meant to be a surprise on Christmas morning.

Spirit of Christmas Present

Scene: We’re living in a rental house in Philomath. The essential furnishings are in place but most of our belongings are secured in five U-Box containers stored in a warehouse somewhere in Springfield.

Our 3-year-old is beginning to really understand the joys associated with Christmas — gifts of new and fun toys, Santa Claus, cookies and pie and a Christmas tree. But there is no Christmas tree this year. We decided to not get one because all of our decorations are stored away. Even if we wanted to retrieve them, I’d have no idea where to start looking for them in those tightly-packed containers.

We just didn’t anticipate that we would still be renting at Christmas as we wait for our new home to be finished — thanks to various delays associated with COVID-19.

Lesson: Maybe I should’ve purchased a tree anyway, and spent a few bucks on new decorations to brighten the living room. With a 1-year-old trying to pull everything down he can find, it seemed like a good excuse to just not have a tree this year. But in the back of my mind, I know my 3-year-old would’ve loved it.

Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come

Scene: A hospital room in Corvallis. Medical personnel are attempting to save me after I’ve flatlined. My wife believes I’ll beat this latest health issue and our lives will get back to normal. She’s trying to get to the elementary school in time to pick up our youngest son not knowing that I’m dying.

Action: The sedentary lifestyle and consumption of food with no nutritional value got the best of me. I spent too many years at a desk, writing stories on deadline, eating whatever I could in the moment and too exhausted at the end of the day to even consider exercise. The pounds came on and when you’re overweight and getting older, health issues arise and you become a higher risk for certain medical conditions.

A doctor’s appointment last week (coincidentally, my provider is a Philomath native) reminded me that I’m at risk. Of course, I’m the father of two young children and I really want to be around as long as possible for them and to be here as they grow into adults. That’s one of my main motivations to try to get back on a reasonable diet and find the time to exercise, even if it’s just walking 10,000 steps per day. I did very well with those goals early this year and lost 25 pounds. But I fell off the wagon, I’m eating too much sugar and carbohydrates, I quit exercising and the weight is back on and then some.

Lesson: My brother and sister were both dead by age 59 and I just turned 55. The blood pressure and blood sugar are too high. It’s time to get serious. If I don’t get this turned around, I believe my Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come would show me dying at a younger-than-wanted age and my kids growing up without me. Typing those words just now makes me want to start right away — eat better, take breaks from the desk to exercise and in general, just improve my health.

Well, I guess you could say the spirit did visit me just now.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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