I pulled out our Christmas card box the week after Thanksgiving and began to prepare our cards for mailing.
Yes, I do our holiday cards. In most families, this yearly task is commonly relegated to the distaff side. Honey did ours for over 60 years. But three years ago, the arthritis in her hands made it too painful for her to do all that writing.
Actually, I rather enjoy the process. It’s a trip back through time.
Our Christmas card file is a little red box of 3-by-5 cards. Each person/family has a card. Some have been in the box for so long that they have multiple cards stapled together. Several are friends from college and our Army days.
They tell tales of moves, children (plus grand and great), divorce, spousal deaths and times both good and bad. At the back is a section of cards held together by a rubber band. It’s the “dead” file and is now growing at a faster pace.
We have not seen some of these folks for 60-plus years and hear from them only once a year. But they are still friends, and most cards have a story.
There’s Gene, a Texas native. We served together in the Army. After active duty, our families vacationed together several times at a Texas beach.
He was a chemist for a large oil company near Galveston. One day in 1960, we were sitting in the shade, talking about his work, when he said, “We’ve got to get off these fossil fuels.”
I asked him why. His response: “They’re going to kill us.”
That was the first time I’d ever heard a statement about that issue. It seems our current problem is not really new.
Tom from Ohio is another friend from Army days.
When a new 2nd Lieutenant goes on active duty, one thing he gets is a uniform allowance. Since he had some from ROTC, Tom spent his on new golf clubs. This act revealed his lack of commitment to long-term military service.
He was a pretty good golfer — until he got the new clubs. Then he became a hacker. Maybe it was guilt or Karma or poetic justice. Who’s to say.
Anyway, one bad trait he developed was pulling off the ball on the first tee, hitting it with the toe of the driver and launching a dangerous missile 45 degrees to the right about three feet off the ground.
We played at the officers’ course. From the first tee, the 18th green lay about 40 yards and 45 degrees to the right. If a group was there putting when Tom teed up his ball, the rest of us got ready to yell for them to take cover the instant the toe of his driver made contact.
Some of those old colonels and generals could jump pretty well. And at least a couple would come over and give us a good butt chewing.
When I write Tom’s card, I wonder if he ever took any lessons when he got back to civilian life. As yet, I’ve not had the nerve to ask.
Jim was yet another Army buddy from Ohio.
At the regimental level, military justice was handled by summary court- martials. Defendants, who were all enlisted men, had to be represented by counsel. These counsels had to be officers, but no legal training was required. It was an onerous extra duty avoided by experienced officers and relegated to young lieutenants.
Most of the cases were guilty pleas because they were. No one could remember the last case in our regiment that resulted in a not-guilty verdict. So, the trials had become just pro forma exercises. But then Jim was assigned as defense counsel.
He had studied pre-law in college and knew that the regimental prosecutors had become sloppy in their work. His first client was charged with driving on post with a suspended license. He pled not guilty.
The soldier admitted to being in the car with three other men but said he was not driving. They backed up his story. There were no notes on the arrest and the MP could not recall who was driving. The verdict: not guilty.
Jim was hailed by the young lieutenants as the Clarence Darrow of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Our colonel was not amused and issued an order removing Jim as defense counsel. It was a good life lesson for us in challenging authority.
I met Charlie at church over 40 years ago. He sold books and loved to tell stories over lunch.
When he retired, he had some health issues and was in a rehab center. Some of his friends decided to take him to lunch. His nurses wheeled him down to the curb and loaned him a walker to use.
After food and many stories, they got up to leave when Charlie’s pants fell down. His friends got him put back together and back to the rehab center.
As he was going from the car to the wheelchair, his pants fell down again. When the nurses were told the same thing had happened in the restaurant, one wondered why that kept happening.
One of his droll friends said, “He’s suffering from that old man’s disease.” She asked what disease that was. He replied, “It’s called no-ass-a-tol.”
Yes, just about every card in our box has a story.