Sunday, December 15, 2013
I don't know if it's my imagination or not, but it seems that the Salvation Army is out in force this year. I know it's Chritmas season and they are always out, but this year it seems more so.
Whenever I pass them, if there is any jingly in my pocket, I put it in the bucket. Always.
Not just because I am a nice guy.
I am trying to pay for a bicycle I got 48 years ago.
When I was 12 years old, my father had a massive heart attack. It very nearly killed him. He had 13 children, 12 still at home from 18 to almost 2, and he was only 48 years old. And in August 1965, heart attacks were not treated like they seem to be today. I have seen people have one on Friday morning and they are back at their desk on Tuesday.
Dad was in the hospital for six weeks. And out of work for six months. Health insurance and long term disability also were not what they are today.
We were poor. No other word for it.
The house was being paid or delayed. And Mom had a job to put food on the table. My oldest brother was in the Army, stationed nearby, and he used the Commissary for our groceries with a wink and a nod from his commander.
At Thanksgiving Mom sat us down and gave us the bad news. Santa Claus was not visiting our house in 1965. Maybe for the four little ones, but not us big kids. I know some of my sisters cried. Not sure if I did, but this was a big dose of reality for a 12 year old to have to swallow. I knew things were tough and this confirmed it, but gosh I was just a kid.
One afternoon about two weeks before Christmas, it was grey and spattering wet snow that was more like rain, a Salvation Army truck stopped on the hill in front of our house. Mom went out to talk to them. I went out with her for some reason. She told them we hadn't called them for a pick up this month.
The man got off the truck. "Mrs Nohe, we aren't here for a pick up this time. We are here for a drop off." Mom started to object. "Someone told Santa's elfs that there were some good children in this house who deserved Christmas and needed some help." He said that to me like I believed in Santa. I was clearly 12 ... and a half ... , almost a teenager.
But someone told the Salvation Army that we were having a bad Christmas. To this day I think it was Miss Marie, a grandmotherly old lady, one of three people (including her sister Dot and Mom) I would allow to call me Timmy and the only one who actually did (Mom called me Timothy and Miss Dot called me Kevin and I don't know why).
They unloaded almost the entire truck. The last item to come off was an old Schwinn.
"Are you Timmy?"
"I'm Tim or Timothy." I did not like Timmy.
"Oh that's too bad. Because the tag on this says 'For Timmy.' But if you're not him ..."
It had 26 inch wheels and coaster brakes, not an "English" bike with gears and handbrakes, but man oh man, it was a 26 inch bike.
"Ok. I'm Timmy today."
It needed some repair, but Dad and my brother Dick helped me and it was ready for Christmas Day. It was 65ºF on Christmas, so I got to ride, a lot.
That was 48 years ago. It was probably the best Christmas I ever had. That bike was the only thing I got.
And I will never be able to pay for it.