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A Real Christmas Letter: Writer Counts Blessings

The following is a real Christmas letter that I received last year. It was too late to publish it on Swampland so I saved it for this year because I found it not only inspirational but very funny. During 2009 I read it over and over in order to remember to count my blessings, to laugh often, and never to forget that the gift of the season is love---complete, total, and utterly selfless love---not just eros or philia but agape.

I am posting the letter anonymously for obvious reasons, but I want my friend and his wife to know how much I admire them for their honesty, their good humor, their tolerance, and their unconditional love. The letter follows.-----------------

Dear Friends,

2008 is nearly done with us, and not a moment too soon. In spite of the stress, we're incredibly proud of our grandson: he came out of the closet last summer. We're as happy as we can be. Now that he knows it's OK to be who he is, he no longer wants to kill himself.

He discovered Out Youth, a wonderful organization. It gave him a peer group, accepting adults and a place to hang out where he wouldn't feel like a freak. He's gone from barely passing school and missing the maximum possible days to A's and B's with perfect attendance. He is back to the kid we remember: happy, witty, interested in everything. He dances, sings and laughs with little or no provocation. He's who he always was, just gay. If anybody tells you it's a choice or that he might change his mind, you can tell them for me that he would have chosen anything but to be gay – but now that it's undeniable, we wouldn't want him any other way.

We are equally proud of his parents, our daughter and son-in-law. They have four months of sobriety. They're both working and paying their bills. They've dropped the old crowd, moved to a new city and are starting their lives over again. We're worried about them too: they probably won't stay together. It's up to them either way – my wife and I are staying out of the middle as much as possible. We recognize that they're equally to blame, so we're not getting into the games of demonization.

Our priority is our grandson. We've been raising him for the past year, and part of the deal was that when they got their lives in order, he would go back to them. In spite of the risk, it's what we all want. The biggest problem is that he's out to his mother, but not his father. We're insisting to him that he needs to tell his dad, but he's afraid he'll be thrown out of the house when he does. We respect that fear, but he'll have his mother and us to fall back on if that happens. Besides, the longer he waits, the worse it will get, so he might as well come out now.

News from the rest of the family: Uncle Robert died this year. He had not been in good condition, so it wasn't a total surprise. Don't mourn him, though. He was a lifelong Southern Baptist, so right now he is in segregated heaven, with all the other good Christians like Moses and Abraham. It's just as well that he died too soon to see Barack Obama win the election, since that probably would have killed him.

My wife's brother is doing well after his heart surgery. This is in spite of driving all the way to the hospital in Baltimore with Cousin Larry, who drove him back home the day after the surgery so Larry could make his tennis match. That fits right in with some of the other capers these two have pulled, like jogging a stretch of Route 66 naked.

The Florida branch of the family is doing well. They survived another eventful hurricane season, including Hurricane Fay that hit every county in the state. The housing crash hasn't hurt them, since they're going to be in their place for a while. They had to put down their pit bull Princess after she snapped at the two-year-old. We were sad for them, but it was time. I can see her now, sitting at Robert's feet – it wouldn't be heaven if there weren't dogs, now would it?

Late breaking news: my 92-year-old mother-in-law lost sight in one eye; she's being treated for temporal arteritis. She's got a good attitude; after the mastectomy and the cochlear implant, it's just one more thing for her. She says it's all right, "I've still got one eye, one ear and one tit.”

Merry Christmas to you all.

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