As told by Elmer Bumpsted
I was watching the Christmas Carol recently on the TV. When Marley came through the door draped from head to foot in great chains — just for an instant, I thought of myself. I hadn’t done anything particularly woeful in my life, but there it was — a subtle but inexplicable weightiness I had not detected until now. I wondered about it.
By and by my guardian angel, Gertrude, fluttered by and whispered in my ear, “Each heavy link is forgiveness you have withheld from one of your fellows.”
“Hey, Gertie, wait a minute. What are you talking about? I’m a very forgiving person.”
She smiled, waved her chubby little hand, and flew away, leaving me wondering more than ever.
It was a dark and stormy night when the Grandfather Clock in the living room struck the midnight hour. I opened my eyes and nearly freaked out. There they were — at the foot of my bed. Their draconian appearance struck terror into my fainting heart which I camouflaged brilliantly with a macho greeting, “Who the hell are you?”
Before their cackling subsided, I knew I was in serious trouble. The two in the back were scary enough, but the one in front, whose lingering leer atop a drooling toothless smile beneath that never-ending nose, scared the bejesus out of me.
The one on the left spoke first, “Yes, my good fellow. I am your Christmas past. You need to come along with me so I may point out those folks who erred against you at a young age. The grudges you hold against them become heavier with each passing year. It’s time to forgive them and let them go.”
Then the old woman spoke, “Hello, dearie. I’m your Christmas present. Now is the time to clean the slate and set some current folks free of your angst against them.”
“Wait a minute, grandma. I have no angst against anyone.”
“Tut, tut, tut, I’m here to help you. Now come along and be a good boy. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
“What about this old Grinch. Please don’t tell me he’s my Christmas future.”
“You bet your britches I am, Sonny Jim. Now run along with your Christmas past and present and then you and I will have a little chin-wag about your future.”
“I hate to tell you this, gramps, but I’m not having any chin-wag with you or anyone else.” I turned over and buried my face in my pillow, hoping this vision was a bit of undigested cheese. Oh, my God, I was beginning to sound like Scrooge. I changed my mind, it must have that taco with all those killer peppers. What was I thinking when I ate those damned things?
I woke with a start when the clock struck one and peeked from under the covers; they were gone. I thought about my past and present. I did not like to admit it but, they were right. I was holding grudges and withholding forgiveness. After all, what did grudges matter, now that so much time had passed?
I decided to turn over a new leaf and forgive everyone – except for Al Till. That little bastard made my life miserable in high school. When I heard a whooshing sound, I peeked out from under the covers and there he was Christmas past. “I heard that.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“But you thought it …” he moved closer, “… didn’t you.”
I sat up in bed and stared at him. He moved even closer.
“What do you want from me?” I was in no mood for chitchat with this specter.
“I’m here about Albert Till.”
“What about the little bastard?”
“You know he’s dead, don’t you?’
“No, I didn’t. That’s great. I hope he rots in hell for all eternity.”
Christmas future appeared and shook his bony finger at me. I said nothing.
Christmas past continued. “Albert was jealous of you.”
“Jealous of what? I didn’t even know him.”
“Do you remember what he looked like?”
“Yes. He was short and ugly. His hands were all gnarly.”
“And why do you think that was?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care. He was a rat.”
“He was congenitally deformed.”
“Do you remember what you looked like at that age?”
“You were very good looking. He was jealous of you because of your looks.”
“Is that all you have to say for yourself?”
“I never thought about it that way.”
“I’m sure if you had befriended him, things might have been different for you.”
“Well, it’s over and done with.”
“What does that mean?”
“You haven’t forgiven him.”
When I opened my eyes the day had already broken. Everything about the dream and Al Till flashed before my eyes. I felt remorse for the first time in my life. I realized all I could do was forgive Al and understand why he did what he did. He was gone now and I hoped he was in a better place and having a good time.
I didn’t like the feeling of holding that grudge. I began to search my memory banks to see who else I may be holding hostage. I would start the New Year with a clean slate if for no other reason than I wouldn’t have to deal with Christmas future. God, he was coyote ugly and he smelled funny.
I got out of bed and began to make a list of people I needed to forgive. By the end of the morning, I was shocked at how long the list had become. I certainly had my work cut out for me. But I did feel much better just thinking about removing all those burdens. I hope they all felt better being released from me. I even forgave my three Christmases for scaring the hell out of me.