Merry Christmas, 1999
To celebrate Christmas, I am sharing my Christmas Day columns, a tradition that started in 1996. Here is the 1999 version:
A Christmas story, December 1994: A steep hill stood near his aunt’s house in Sioux City, Iowa, where the family gathered every year for Christmas. So anytime it snowed, a big bunch went sledding. Sometimes all day long.
But Dad wasn’t big on sledding. Fine for everyone else. Just leave him alone.
Which, of course, he wasn’t. Please go down the hill, they begged him. Please!
Finally, Dad gave in to peer pressure. He climbed aboard and headed down the hill for the ride of his life.
The sled started spinning sideways, Dad’s glasses flew off and at the crash site at the bottom of the hill, the sled crunched the glasses.
“He was done for the rest of the day,” said the son. “Blind for the rest of the weekend.”
Dad was mad but couldn’t stay that way. He ended up laughing it off.
Dad got new glasses after Christmas, went back to coaching football at Northern State in South Dakota and never again sledded down a hill, no matter how much he was begged by Josh Heupel.
A Christmas story, Dec. 25, 1945: The three older brothers were big, rough and rowdy growing up in Gary, Ind. Physical and athletic. Brash and loud.
Nick was different. He was the youngest. Slight frame. Delicate bone structure. A sad-eyed dreamer. A near-fatal bout with double pneumonia likely kept Nick from growing like his brothers. He rarely played with them in the park. When he did, one of the brothers would razz him about his awkwardness.
Nick turned to music. Violin lessons.
This Christmas, the family gathered in the parlor, opening gifts, happy to be together. Then Nick is asked to play a solo.
The music drifts through the old house and dances about the ears of a brother. The brother’s heaviest doubts disappear. He wants to reach out, to say without hesitation: “I know you, Nick. I’m glad you’re my brother.”
But he doesn’t. He fights off the urge. He falls asleep. Those words never were uttered by Alex Karras.
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