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A week or two before Christmas I suggested to Fella that instead of buying each other gifts this year, we pool our money and do something to help someone like his cousin, whose $400 power bill needs to be paid by the end of the month. Then I made a call to the provincial government’s social services department and got the phone number required for the cousin to apply for financial aid. He called me back the following night to tell me he hadn’t made the call because … he gave me several stupid excuses … and I said “Well I hope you don’t starve or freeze to death” and hung up the phone and said to Fella: “That’s it; he gets no help from me from now on. If his power gets cut off so he can’t continue to heat his house using the oven, too bad for him. He seems to always manage to afford cigarettes and whiskey, and I’m not going to be his enabler. He can live (or not) with the consequences of his own choices.”

Then I went shopping for Christmas gifts for Fella. Usually I spend several hundred dollars on nice gifts for him, and they remain in the boxes they came in (a fancy weather thing for the guy who is always watching the sky; a hands-free phone contraption for his truck; and once I gave him $200 to buy himself the iPod or MP3 player of his choice, and he stuck the money in the bank and never bought one). One year I took him shopping and let him choose power tools; he loved that, but later insisted I had charged them to his credit card instead of my own, and that I hadn’t given him a Christmas gift in years. There is something wrong with his brain, I swear.

But I wasn’t going to let him go without even one gift for Christmas, so in our little town I found a nice cotton shirt and several pairs of gauch, which I knew he needed, and I grabbed a box of Turtles and called my job done. In the morning I handed him the shiny packages and he looked at me sheepishly.

“I don’t have one for you.” He pressed his lips together in the way he does when he thinks he’s been a dink. “You said we weren’t buying gifts for each other this year, that we’d give $ to someone else instead.”

“And did we do that?” I asked him. “Anyway, I’ll live. Open your presents!”

He went to the bedroom and came out a minute later with a sweetly romantic card for me and, tucked into it, a $100 bill. A last-minute save for a man who hates shopping, unless it’s for something he himself wants.