The Grinch does not live at the top of Mount Crumpit. He lived on a back street off of College Avenue in the west end of Beaumont. I know this because I met him my senior year in high school.
Long since retired as a deputy sheriff, he would smoke through his days in his old, musty chair miserably grumbling about whatever was in the paper to his Chihuahua, who was in my opinion the only thing meaner than him.
The two made a perfect pair agreeing to pretty much hate anyone and anything else, except for maybe April, the Grinch’s teenaged granddaughter whom he was raising after the court found her mother unfit.
The Grinch’s cave took the form of a small but relatively neat little house, which carried an air of past memories and tobacco mixed with a hint of hopelessness and musk. The floors creaked in desperation for something that never came to pass, and each room seemed to lead to the next in search of something never found.
At some point, according to some scarce artifacts on the wall, there had been a Mrs. Grinch who, I surmised, carried a much lighter demeanor, and who had expected everyone else to do so as well. But she had long since gone and been replaced by an absence nothing seemed to fill.
I once asked April why the Grinch smoked so much — it’s hazardous to his health I explained.
“He knows,” was all she answered. Unsatisfied, I pressed the point with the Grinch himself.
“Those things will kill you, you know.”
“I know,” he growled. “That’s the point.” I guess the cigarettes were helping bring about long, expected reunion.
“You mean he is living just to die?” I asked April.
“What about joy? What about happiness? What about life?”
“Nope. Just cigarettes and being mad at stuff.”
I attempted to express my sympathies to the dog with a pat on the head. She did not accept, returning the favor with a snarl. I retracted just in time to keep all five digits intact. So much for the Grinch’s dog being the doe-eyed sweetie.
“What about Christmas?” I wondered. It was only a few days away, and I figured if nothing else was worth living for, that would be. Before I could finish my thought, I was shushed and yanked to the side by April.
“We don’t talk about that,” she said in a low, hushed voice.
“You don’t talk about Christmas?”
“We don’t talk about, think about, and most definitely do not celebrate Christmas.”
“What? Seriously?!” I loudly whispered.
“No ribbons? No tags?”
“No packages, boxes or bags?” I smirked.
“Nothing.” Straight-faced. Deadly serious.
It’s true. He really was the Grinch. As much as he hated everything else, the Grinch hated Christmas more. As it turns out, he was born on Christmas Eve. Sadly, instead of a happy celebration of his and his Savior’s birth, it was an annual day of sour disappointment. His parents only gave him one gift on his birthday.
Then, the next morning, as all the other children opened Christmas packages with glee, he received only an explanation of how he already gotten his gift the day before. Now, the only thing the season brought him was the painful reminder and culmination of all of his anger, hurt and bitterness. Over time, the wound had only festered.
That Christmas Eve, still flabbergasted with disbelief that anyone could not be joyful about Christmas, I shared his story with my father.
“Well,” dad grinned, “maybe it’s time we brought Christmas to the Grinch!”
We drove all over town and finally found a Christmas tree to purchase along with some decorations, lights, and, of course, presents. We then proceeded to Chip’s house, a friend of mine who lived nearby and agreed to assist. The plan was to store everything at his place while April convinced the Grinch to attend his annual Christmas Eve party for retired officers. Then later that evening, with the Grinch out of the cave, we would sneak in and set everything up.
As soon as our own church’s early Christmas Eve service ended (since my dad was the preacher, he cut the sermon a little short to give us more time), we made our way to Chip’s place to pick up him and the supplies and head over to the Grinch’s cave. We had just enough time to get in and get out before his estimated return.
Using the key April had given me, I turned the lock and began congratulating myself for devising such an awesome plan.
And then I heard it…the one variable I had not accounted for growling at me from just inside the door.
“Oh no!” I whispered.
“Oh no, what?” my dad asked.
“I forgot about the dog.”
His question was answered in the form of a loud growl and bark.
“Well, now what?” dad asked.
“Pray,” I said as I opened the door attempting to distract the angry, snapping jaws with some decorations.
“You and Chip set up the tree while I deal with Max.”
Notwithstanding the occasional canine yap, we moved quickly and quietly, not wanting to arouse suspicion from the neighbors, or get caught by an early returning former law enforcement agent.
Somehow, we got everything in place, turned on, and set up without getting caught, shot, bitten or busted. We thanked Chip for his help and returned home to wait for the phone call.
“The phone call!” I thought with sudden dread.
Up until that moment it had not occurred to me how the call would go. I just assumed the whole time that the Grinch would be happy with our gift. But what if he wasn’t? What if he was angry at what he perceived to be a cruel joke? What if he was deeply hurt from what he interpreted as a mockery of his pain? What if he pressed charges?
As nervous as I had been about sneaking in, not getting eaten by Mad Max, and not taking a bullet from a surprised retired sheriff’s deputy, I was now gripped with the terror at the thought of the Grinch not receiving the gift as a gift, but a sarcastic insult.
Then it came: the ringing of the phone — the Grinch’s call. Dad looked at me encouragingly as I picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” I meekly answered.
Then the sound of sobbing. In between sniffs and sniffles I was able to make out a heart-felt thank you, and a few broken sentences having to do with this being the best Christmas, and the first Christmas he had ever had.
As I mustered up something about it not being a problem, he hung up in tears. So did I. It is said that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
So did mine.
There will be a lot of things this Christmas that will be new, strange, different, maybe even wrong. But it seems to me, based on my time with the Grinch, if you want to bring family, Christmas and God close this year, help make them close for someone else.
Dr. Todd Jordan is Senior Pastor of Strawbridge United Methodist Church in Kingwood, Texas near Houston. If you are ever in the area, Todd and his congregation would love to have you come worship with them in person or join them online anytime on their website above.
A Closer Christmas is brought to you by the Communications Department of the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. To be considered as a future blogger, please contact Shannon W. Martin, Director of Communication at Click to email.