Bad news aside, there’s still plenty 
of reasons to offer a Merry Christmas

Given current events, it’d be easy to be down in the dumps this Christmas morning.

Recent lumps of coal in our stockings include the obvious: 20 elementary school students being buried at a time when they should be opening presents, a Congress and a president still pawing and snorting at the edge of the fiscal cliff, an all-too-slow recovery of our economy, an increasingly angry and divided country. 

Any of you could add to that list. I hope you’ve chosen instead a more positive outlook, as I’m opting to do in the spirit of both the religious and secular traditions of the holiday season.

It’ll be a very merry Christmas today when a couple dozen members of our extended family gather at our house for the traditional dinner. Christmas Eve was just as enjoyable when we gathered last night for festivities and gift-opening at my brother Tom’s house. This morning we enjoyed a Christmas brunch at my sister-in-law’s.

Last Friday evening, we gathered at my sister’s place to celebrate the many December birthdays in the Spehar family. Even my brother Gerry, who gathered his family from points east and west to come home for the holidays, was smiling despite 65 years of getting short-changed on gifts by virtue of his Christmas Day birth.

One of those birthdays deserves special mention. Too many of us on the early edge of the baby boom won’t get to share the Christmas season with our parents. We’re lucky enough to still enjoy the company of (and all the candy and baked treats provided by) my mother, who’s celebrating her 93rd Christmas today.

Bonnie and I could be grumpy, I suppose, about not having Jessica and John and Tony seated at our table this afternoon. Instead, we’ll remember a couple of recent visits with Jess and her husband in California and will spend time with Tony at his new digs in Colorado Springs in a few days. Today we’ll celebrate that our kids have somehow managed to survive their upbringing to become productive and caring adults.

Some food we enjoy during the holiday season is lovingly prepared from family recipes that accompanied our ancestors from Eastern Europe to Colorado’s high country in the 1880s. The sixth generation of us will enjoy those tastes today and again in August when descendants of those early Spehars and Kapushions, now scattered from coast to coast and points in between, gather up in Crested Butte for our annual celebration of our heritage.

We’re blessed with friends like the “Behavior Barbies” who inducted Bonnie into their “Black Leather Jacket Club” a recently. Other help us realize perhaps silly dreams such as re restoring a Land Cruiser or interrupt their own lives to do an emergency repair for a wife whose husband is off hunting.

I’ll miss the holiday catch-up call from a longtime friend who died in May. But we’ll cherish ongoing relationships with college roommates and with my oldest friend, whose cries I’m told I could hear from a neighboring apartment down at Eighth and Main while waiting to exit the womb.

One prediction has come true. When we had our kids at ages 35 and 40, I joked to friends that when they were making the last payment on their condo on Maui, we’d be cashing Social Security checks for college tuition.  But both of us are still able to make our way doing things that satisfy us while enjoying life.

I’m now relegated to driving or bicycling along the roads north of town where I used to wear out a couple of pairs of Asics a year. There might not be another marathon in my future and creaks and groans are a little more frequent. But I’m a pretty lucky guy compared to friends and acquaintances in constant pain or who suffer the after effects of debilitating illnesses.

I’m most appreciative of a gift only recently received, one that might come naturally with age but more likely is a result of much-delayed maturity. As I’ve told some of you, I never valued perspective much until I got some.

It’s just as easy, this holiday season, to see the glass half full as half empty and know that we’re likely to somehow survive all the problems, both real and imagined, that we face. Just ask the Mayans.

Merry Christmas!

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