A favorite saying around Greg's house at the holidays was: “Don't mess with the bull, or you might get the horn”. The source of this sentiment was Greg's dad, Jim.
Jim was always in a foul mood from Thanksgiving through New Year's. Some said it was due to the cost of everything that went with the holiday season: Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners; holiday parties; Christmas Presents; and so on.
Others in the family speculated that it was because of the crowds everywhere you went at that time of the year. Every place was packed all the time. Crowds made Jim grumpy.
Cousin Dale thought it was because his Uncle Jim never got a decent Christmas present. Little Sally, Jim's youngest niece, thought it was because he was secretly Dr. Seuss' “Grinch”.
Greg, though, had his own ideas about his father's grouchiness. All of the relatives who came to visit from Thanksgiving through New Year's were all from mom's side of the family. Jim's family all lived several states away and could never make it down for the holidays. Jim's parents always hosted family for the holidays, and Greg's mother had always insisted on doing the same - leaving Jim the only person at his house not related by blood to anyone else there.
The more Greg thought about it, the more sense it made to him. So, he set about trying to set things right for his dad. His first call was to Grandma Rose.
“Grammy? Can you and Gramps come down here for Christmas this year?”
“Greg? Is that you? You sound so grown up!”
“I'm fifteen now...my voice changed over the summer. Everyone says it makes me sound older.”
“You do! Um...what was your question again?”
“Can you and Gramps come down here for Christmas?”
“I'm sorry sweetie. That just isn't possible. We have so many people coming over here for dinner and presents. Why? You know our presents are already there, right?”
That little tidbit almost caused Greg to lose his focus. Presents were already here? Mom was getting sly – the tree wasn't even up yet!
“What did you get me?”
“Wouldn't you like to know! So is that what this is all about?”
Greg got his mind back on track. “No, that's not it. I just think Dad misses spending the holidays with his family.”
Grandma Rose let out a big belly laugh.
“Ha-ha! That's a good one Greggie. I'm going to share that with your grandpa.”
“I mean it, he only sees his in-laws at this time of year. I think he misses you.”
“Well that would be a first! That man never calls, writes or even sends us a tweet. We'd never know anything if it wasn't for your mom's Facebook page. What makes you think he misses us?”
He's just always depressed Thanksgiving through New Year's.”
Grandma let out another laugh. “You hear this, Fred?” She shouted to her husband. “Greggie says Jim is always depressed from Thanksgiving through New Year's”
Greg heard Gramps pick up the other extension. “Greggie? That true?”
“How long has this been going on? Five years?”
Greg thought back through previous holidays. “That seems about right, I guess.”
“Hah! Thought so!”
“Why? What happened five years ago?”
“Nothin' boy! But six years ago was the last time Minnesota State won their annual Thanksgiiving day game. And New Year's day is always the day of the bowl game for the team that beat them. The bowl game they should be playing! You want to really mess with the bull? Go ask your father who won the Thanksgiving day game this year. Only I'd wear some padding, because you are definitely going to get some horn! Ha!”
Greg listened to his grandfather cackle over his joke a few more moments and then said his goodbyes and wished them both a merry Christmas. As he hung up the phone, he wondered if it really could be so simple as that. Taking a deep breath, he headed for the kitchen where his father was busy yelling at the microwave for not getting his lunch warm the first time.
“Hey Dad? Who won the game on Thanksgiving?”
Years later, Greg was still never sure what happened next. His psychiatrists all said that he had suppressed those memories. One thing is sure - he never asked his father that question again.
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