The following is a column I wrote that was published in my paper, The Cuyahoga Falls News-Press, on Christmas. The photo is a bonus that did not run in the paper. It was taken Jan. 31 of last year in Canton South. Following the column is a response I received from a reader.
Reflections: Christmas memories remain as time passes, trials come
December 25, 2011
by Steve Wiandt, Reporter
I ran across a makeshift guide of Christmas specials I made out of newsprint when I was 12. It’s an early indication of how I liked to write, and watch television. It’s also a sign that some things remain constant even as people age and undergo trials.
Measuring about 4 inches by 4 inches, the cover of the eight-page booklet reads, “This year’s book of Christmas and other specials.” A picture of Santa Claus clipped from a newspaper ad is pasted on the front. “Special” is printed in the upper right-hand corner. Below the words “Merry Christmas” is the credit, “Editor: Steven Wiandt.”
Inside is a TV schedule from 1977, probably copied out of TV Guide. The dates of broadcasts range from Nov. 27 to Dec. 16. Titles listed include “The Hobbit,” “Doonesbury,” “Mr. Magoo Christmas,” “The Honeymooners Christmas,” “The Incredible Hulk” and specials hosted by Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash and Paul Lynde.
The Bing Crosby Christmas special featured the surreal pairing of Der Bingle with David Bowie on “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth,” which became a hit after the video clip was played on MTV and the recording was released on vinyl, later to be a staple on radio stations at Christmas time. According to Wikipedia, the track was recorded on Sept. 11, 1977, for “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.” Crosby died on Oct. 14, just over a month after recording the special. The show aired on Nov. 30.
All the classics are listed in my little book as well, including those starring Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown and the Grinch. “Cosmic Christmas,” “The Flintstones,” “The Nutcracker, “Christmas Donkey” and “House without a Christmas Tree” are also named.
Thinking about the old Christmas specials makes me think about my years as a kid growing up in Canton. When I watch that scene in the Charlie Brown special where he and Linus are looking for a Christmas tree, it reminds me of going to a store with my dad and the rest of our family. I remember it was a big store, maybe Giant Tiger, a popular Canton store in the 1970s. I remember walking out of the store. It was dark and quiet. Everything seemed still and isolated, like the Christmas tree lot Linus and Charlie Brown are walking through.
Then my dad realizes he left without paying for a stocking cap he had picked out for one of us kids. So he goes back inside and pays for it. I don’t know why my mind always goes back to that night. It was a simple act of forgetfulness; anyone could have done that. I’m sure my father was fine mentally then. Dad’s brain is not so good now. Dad has Alzheimer’s disease and he sometimes fails to recognize his grandchildren or remember if I’m his son or older. Keeping Dad at home got to be too much for Mom, so last week we helped him move into a nursing home.
We as a family had a difficult time leaving him there that day. My brother, my two sisters and our spouses were all there to support Mom and help Dad get settled in. When we said our goodbyes and started for the door, Dad followed us, but only as far as the front desk where he saw a friendly face and stopped to talk. He loves talking to people.
I visited Dad on Saturday around 11 a.m. He was in his room asleep in his chair in front of the television. The nurse woke him, and we talked for about an hour. Dad was reliving his days of driving a truck with his dad and brother. He seemed to think I was his older brother, John, still calling me Steve. That was OK. I played some old songs for him on my phone, and he continued to talk. He was in good spirits.
It’s going to be different this Christmas. Dad’s not home with Mom in the house in Magnolia we moved into in 1978. Somebody will have to pick him up and bring him to our gathering at my sister’s house in Canton. We won’t be at the old homestead. But our minds will travel back there, to the one in Magnolia and the one in Canton, where so many memories were made.
Under the Christmas tree. Around the dinner table. And in front of the television.
Your article in the paper about your Dad touched me. It was really well written and even though we come from different backgrounds I can relate to it very well. Being Jewish I don’t have the same Christmas memories you have but like you I have fond memories of my Dad, and growing up with lots of family around.
My Dad passed away two years ago this past October and never a day goes by that I don’t think of him. My mother lost the love of her life, my siblings and I lost our father and the grandkids lost Poppa to the dreaded Alzheimer’s. The day before my Dad passed away I walked into his hospital room and he looked at me, and quickly gave me a thumbs up! For that brief moment he knew exactly who I was and it was a great gift that I will always treasure.
Thanks for a great article and give your Dad a hug for me and wish him a Merry Christmas!!
Allen Mandel … Cuyahoga Falls, OH