Ghosts

Poor ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Just minding his business, doing his thing (making everyone around him miserable) when out of nowhere he gets a visit from his dead buddy Jacob Marley. The dead dude’s wrapped in rattling chains, speaking in that weird voice dead people use in the movies while warning Scrooge of what’s about to be a real bad night.

Eb just wanted to sleep, but it wasn’t gonna happen with all the chain rattling and bell tolling. Added to his rough night were the three ghosts Marley said were on their way: The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Now, I get the meaning behind all of it. Scrooge was a pretty crappy excuse for a human, so those spirits were there to make him see the error of his ways. No matter which movie version we choose to watch, it’s all centered around Scrooge needing to un-Scrooge his behavior.

Leaving me wondering if we only get to hang out with those Christmas ghosts if our whole lives have been some kind of train wreck.

As far as I’m concerned, if those same three apparitions want to hang out with me on Christmas Eve, we’re gonna have ourselves a party.

My Ghosts of Christmas Past would include some pretty great memories and some pretty great people who are no longer with us. Heck, I pretty much summon those spirits every year anyway, and I don’t need rattling chains to help me.

My Christmases past would include seeing my dad reveling in his role as a hillbilly Santa. Dad’s been gone since 1991, but he still finds a way to visit me every time this holiday rolls around. I still see his face as he watched my siblings and me as we shredded wrapping paper while diving into whatever goodies lay in store. There was always an expression of satisfaction I didn’t quite understand at the time. Back then, I didn’t know — nor care — about our family’s financial status. The old man and our mom somehow managed to scrape up enough to make every Christmas a big, big deal. Somebody forgot to tell us we weren’t rich.

As the eldest child, I was tabbed with the honor of helping the old man put together stuff the night of Christmas Eve. You know: bikes, toys, whatever needed assembling for its presentation the next morning. Staying up late with Dad cranked up my respect for the man while making me realize Santa is way, way overrated.

Ghosts

As I grew older and learned more about just how little we had as far as money, I developed a sense of awe in my parents’ ability to make sure our living room looked like a full department store when we finished laying siege to all those presents.

All these years later, I still hear my old man’s voice singing along with his favorite Christmas carols. Thanks to modern technology, I’ve been able to download the very same versions Dad loved so much. (It’s a lot easier than trying to find ’em on vinyl or 8-track tapes). Somehow, the man managed to have me doing the same thing every year — and I have about as much concern for my lack of singing ability as Dad did. When it comes to Christmas songs, we held to the philosophy that whatever we lacked in talent, we’d more than make up for it in volume. Ask my poor wife and kids ... bless their hearts and ears.

Mom passed away in 1998, but she still visits during the holidays, as well. Her thing was decorating and cooking, so now every time my wife gets busy doing the same things, it’s like my Ghost Mom is hanging out right here with me.

Same with my daughter Jordan, gone from us for the past 10 years now. Man, that chick loved her some Christmas, and not just because of whatever she thought she was getting. She was one of those who wanted to start putting up the decorations right after Halloween. She wanted me to ignore every ball game on TV so she could start watching the same Christmas movies on repeat. Now, every time “Elf” airs on my TV, danged if I don’t ignore the games and focus on Buddy trying to find his dad — and I’ll hear Jordan’s giggle every time Buddy jumps on the danged Christmas tree.

Yeah, buddy. Me’n ol’ Christmas Past get along just fine.

As for the Ghost of Christmas Present? Man, I could fill pages on his visit. I don’t know how I got here after all these years, but I’m in “the zone” when it comes to feeling blessed and happy. Beautiful wife. Kids and their spouses. Grand-brats and more grand-brats. When we’re able to celebrate together, I can’t do much more than sit back and admire the view. I’m sure I look exactly like my father in those moments, with my goofy grin and my sense of satisfaction. It’s weird how it all works: The older we get, the happier we are with nothing more than seeing our loved ones happy.

And if you’ve got grandkids, you know there’s not much out there happier than a little one celebrating Christmas morning. What else can we do but smile and duck the flying wrapping paper?

Ghosts

About the only ghost I’m not too sure about is the Ghost of Christmas Future. I mean, if I could tell the future, I’d have already won the lottery a few times. So if Mr. Future actually shows up, what’s he gonna show me?

He won’t need to remind me how I probably won’t be here when my kids become grandparents and their kids become parents. I’m not good at math, but I know I’d need to add a lot more years on this planet than I can reasonably expect. If I did happen to hang around another 50 years, I wouldn’t be able to perform my goofy grin without worrying about my teeth falling out. I’d be too old to duck paper. My already-lousy singing voice would probably sound even worse than it does, if that’s even possible. I’d sound like Jacob Marley moaning and wailing at Scrooge.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ll still be around our kids and grandkids the same way my lost loved ones are still hanging around with me. Maybe they’ll reminisce about my weird ways when it came to celebrating Christmas. Maybe they’ll laugh about my singing, or how weird I got about my holiday music collection. Hopefully, they’ll remember anything I’ve done right, and they’ll carry it with them the way I do my family’s memories now. If they’ll share anything about me with the little ones, it will almost be as if I’m still right there — just with all my teeth intact.

No, I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, especially the Christmas versions. I’m too old for them to try to change me the way they wanted to change Scrooge, but I’d like to think I’m not so miserable a human as to need it.

Instead, I’ll let those spooky dudes keep on reminding me.

Hold onto the past and all its great memories.

Feel grateful for what’s right in front of me in the present.

And hope like crazy what I do now will mean something in the future.

Bring it on, ghosts. We’ve got some hanging out to do.