The holidays are upon us. Although joyful for most- they herald a miserable month for dysfunctional families. Any ritual gathering punches these clans in the gut
A Christmas Carol
If you attended Hanukah celebration or are going to Christmas event in the next few days – with dread of the drama – the sibling snipes, drunken digs, mom theatrics and ultimately ruined meal- look to Dickens
Dickens classic is the best tale of the chains that will clank through all generations without forgiveness
The Christmas Carol has old Scrooge, parsimonious and downright mean, sleeping in his gloomy bedchamber. He has spent the day browbeating his employee Bob Cratchit, complaining that he will have to pay him for the holiday, ignoring the penurious plight of Bob’s family and little son, poor crippled Tiny Tim.
In the middle of the night the cellar door creaks, an ominous bell starts to toll, and the ghost of his old counting house partner, Marley, lurks into his crypt-like bedchamber.
Marley, clanking his loud chains made of cash boxes, ledgers and very bad deeds, drags toward Scrooge, now awakened and terrified. Warning Scrooge about the consequences of his miserable behavior, rattling the padlocks and metal chains that bind him, Marley says he has been lugging these painful shackles since he died, wandering the earth as punishment for his ungenerous life.
He says he has come to save old Scrooge from that same fate. Scrooge will be in those irons in his next life if he doesn’t give up the past and live a more humane life in the present, and see his way to changing his foul behavior and learning to live a kinder much more openhanded life in the here and now.
Scrooge is made to look back at what started this life of anger and penury. He travels to his childhood with the ghost of Christmas past to see the once sweet little Scrooge who had a nasty father who left the child alone at Christmas in his dilapidated boarding school, reading by a flickering fire.
We forward through the three ghost stories to a kind of Dickensian life review, where Scrooge can see that there was also good in his life in old Fezziwig and Scrooge’s sister Fan. His life did have joy, but poor Scrooge kept retreating to his gloomy self, the lonely, neglected child who inhabited Victorian England’s broken-down boarding school system.
Scrooge has an epiphany. He calls all three ghosts—the past, present, and future—together and finds redemption. He discovers, as his nephew Fred says, a holiday season that wants to be a “forgiving, charitable time.”
The next morning he throws opens the window of his bleak London brownstone and yells for all to hear. He has transitioned into the here and now, lets the past go, and sees a happier family future. He rushes out to buy that mammoth turkey for the Cratchit family, and has a great holiday dinner with his nephew’s family.
Take that story as a warning tale. Family members, especially adult children and elders who pass on their anger, hurt, resentment, and scars to the next generation are dooming those family members, like poor old Scrooge, to a future in Marley’s chains. Forgiving your aging parents can release you from being bound by childhood neglect, or cruel behavior, that gets passed on from one generation to the next. Plus if your parent needs care as they age forgiveness can be the best tool to help your offer care.
If you this comes up over the holidays consider calling a geriatric care manager in your area. They specialize in dysfunctional families. Make a meeting with one a 2013 resolution.