In addition, my wife, Amy, is a very social creature — so we attend lots of holiday gatherings that keep me up way past my bedtime.
To make the holidays even more stressful, Amy invited her mother, sister, brother, and his wife and two kids to stay with us for a weekend. My mother-in-law surprised us by bringing her dog. The kids left Play-Doh stuck in the carpet.
Nevertheless, it was great to see them. But it was even greater to see them go.
Then there’s shopping, wrapping, stringing lights, picking out a tree, and all that noise! noise! noise!
At one point, I stood staring out the window, drumming my fingers together and thinking, “There must be some way to keep Christmas from coming.” But that’s already been done.
On New Year’s Eve, my family attended a family-friendly party that included party hats, whistles and noise makers. It was the first time we let our girls, Evien and Maggie, stay up past midnight to usher in a New Year.
I made a silent resolution to never lose my temper in any situation.
We got up the next morning and dragged ourselves to church like zombies. After the service, we went out to eat at a local restaurant. Our tired children bickered throughout the meal.
“Give me back that crayon!” Maggie demanded.
“But you said I could have it,” Evien said.
“Now I want it back!”
“Can’t you use a different color?”
“I need orange!”
Remembering my New Year’s resolution, I went for a short walk outside in the harsh wind and drizzle. I couldn’t wait to get home and watch the Detroit Lions game I was recording on my DVR.
When we arrived home, I immediately changed into some comfortable clothes, settled into the couch and grabbed the remote control. I clicked the button. The screen was blank. It stayed blank. It stayed blank some more. The DVR didn’t record the game.
At that moment, it was as if six weeks of pent-up holiday stress, frustration and lack of sleep shot out of my body like a volcanic eruption. I let out a torrent of obscenities at the TV that is still hanging over Lake Michigan.
My mouth sputtered words as if they were molten lava. Words that kids shouldn’t hear. Words that adults shouldn’t hear. Words that melt ceiling tiles and crack plaster.
That’s when Amy walked in. “C’mon,” she said. “We can still watch the second half.”
“Second half?” I shouted. “I want to watch the first half. I did everything right. I recorded the right game at the right time, so where is it?”
“Maybe it’s because of the wind,” Amy suggested.
“The wind?” I said, reaching the zenith of my irrationality. “Are you nuts?”
That’s when Amy walked away angry and hurt.
I went upstairs to check for the game on the bedroom TV. It wasn’t there either. I stood there staring at a blank screen, feeling like a great big volcanic ash.
The night before, I’d made a resolution to be calm and easygoing in every situation; I didn’t even make it 14 hours.
I slumped down on the bed and wondered how I could get so upset over something so minor. I wondered how anyone could love me when I could be so unlovable at times. Sometimes my bad qualities seem to outweigh anything good I might do or say, but I know I have a woman who knows I have an occasional meltdown and she’s willing to love me through it. Honestly, I don’t know what it is that I have that keeps her holding on, but I’m glad I have it.
I took a deep breath and walked downstairs. Amy was sitting on the couch, watching the game. I looked at her. She patted the seat beside her. I sat down next to her. She nudged me with her elbow. I nudged her back. During the fourth quarter, we shared a plate of chips n’ cheese and a chocolate Santa.
Later that evening, as Amy and I slipped into bed, she rubbed her feet on mine. She does that sometimes when it’s cold in our bedroom. She’s probably just trying to warm up her toes, but I always thought of it as a small display of affection. On that night, it meant all was forgiven.
Volcanoes look calm, serene and non-threatening on the outside. There’s no evidence of the raging fire just below the surface. Volcanoes don’t erupt very often — but, when they do, they wish they could stop. And when the dust all settles, it’s nice for the volcano to know that there’s enough good in him to warm your feet on his.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist