Our family holiday letter



Who needs doctors when Mad Dog is defending us?

They told me at the doctor’s office that my blood pressure was high. Not sure why. Maybe it’s because I had to wait for 45 minutes after my scheduled appointment time before someone with a stethoscope appeared. I had been sitting in a chair that probably was crawling with invisible bugs destined to kill me. People coughed. That person over there clearly has something like Ebola. I had been thinking about this moment for five years, which is why I normally only see a doctor when I have blown out a lung.

The TV says a guy named “Mad Dog” will be the United States Secretary of Defense.

Why should my blood pressure care?

They will probe me and poke me once that woman opens the secure door and waves me in. I will sit naked under fluorescent lights and wait for that moment.

What, me stressed?

And Merry Christmas to you.

Oh, this is exceptional, she says, and refers me to a specialist as the year’s end draws nigh.

You wait for your stocking to be filled. I am waiting for test results confirming that this will be my last holiday letter.

With a guy named Mad Dog running the Pentagon the test results probably are irrelevant. It’s been great knowing you.

We should note what happened in 2016 for the record, if anyone finds this in an underground bunker.

Terry Branstad was named the most moderate member of the new Republican Administration. Think about that over your egg nog. Then forget about the egg nog and go straight to the rum.

You could shoot an AR-15 anywhere west of Interstate 35, which is our favorite pastime, and never hit a Democratic state senator. Our friend Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs was the last. Take another shot of rum.

Yes, but the Cubs won the World Series. Ding, dong the Goat is dead, the wicked Goat, the Goat is dead.

All was not lost, you see.

Brother John is hearty and hale, and is working short banker’s hours. He no longer vacations at Cabo or Rio but drives a Buick to the Mayo Clinic, having finally found a decent health care package in the form of Medicare. Paul Ryan says he is going to take that away, so John is making up for lost deductibles. He continues to inspire us with leadership born of gravitas and such phrases as: “Anybody wanna go eat? Meow. I’m weak as a kitten.”

We got rid of our old greaser press this year. Our buddy Jim Robinson retired with it. We’re glad his daughter Whitney is handling our advertising sales. We print in Sheldon now, and I must say that I do not miss lying on my back a la Michelangelo trying to set ink rollers. They say there is dignity in work. There is no dignity in setting bottom-side ink rollers while sweat and ink ooze around your eyeballs.

Dolores is fast becoming a crazy rabbit lady. The rabbit chews up oatmeal boxes. Dolores turns the nibble waste into artwork on greeting cards. She is thinking about an Etsy site, where crafters go to digitally display their otherwise mundane wares. This is work that gives a rabbit dignity. Mabel the Newshound thinks it all absurd, stupid rabbit can’t even shake its paw for a treat of Chinese dead chicken. Dolores has set up a table in the living room to work on it, conjuring a weird sort of Oedipal shrine that makes her Ernie Gales Junior who might as well be checking grain storage receipts. She also has been looking at and designing tombstones. I wonder if she has seen my test results or this is just liberal reflex to Trump saying he would bomb Syria into a sheet of glass. She is thinking of the riches she will make from the Etsy site with cardboard cuttings in my absence. What price granite?

I nearly forgot that a holiday letter is supposed to make you think that our family is not as dysfunctional as yours.

Son Joe took a national fiddle revue by Greyhound bus to Kansas City, Austin, New Orleans, Nashville and now Memphis. He is alive and washing dishes at an Irish bar, which is better than most fiddlers can boast in Tennessee.

Lovely daughter Clare works nights in green eye shades terrorizing great literature from the night copy desk of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. She gets off work just in time for last call in Iowa City. No man. Life is good.

Tom is The Storm Lake Times ace reporter, no longer a cub. His most important work to date is shoveling our driveway designed by an evil engineer.

Tom’s twin Kieran is finishing up a master’s degree in education at the University of Northern Iowa after getting a taste of working for me. He hopes to return to Storm Lake after matriculation, become a faculty don and explain to Tom how to shovel the driveway given the angle of the sun and the torque of a snowplow that did not come by on the first night of the two-inch snow emergency last weekend.

It’s billy cold out here on the prairie but we press ahead from our mud huts. The cold gust of mortality that swept the doctor’s reception area gives way to holiday cheer that impeachment can’t be that far off, that we will live to vote another day for governor, and despite the makings of men, God is in His heaven and all is right with the world. Mad Dog. He’s a pussycat. Let’s go eat and drink and fall asleep and when we wake up there will be presents under the tree.