Before I married and before my dark years began, I had my really last good Christmas. That would have been 1952 when our family was still intact, although starting to scatter. Oldest brother Ray was already in the military (Air Force) and God only knows where, but not at home, and my second oldest brother Ronnie, was a few months into his four-year stint in the Air Force and I believe he was in Mississippi.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Christmas of 1952 would be the last with our mother, Jessie Elaine (Van Dyke) Mosher. So it was that the Christmas tree was decorated and standing in the corner of our living room, surrounded by gifts and nearby was the chairs were my dad, L.H. Mosher, and my mother sat most nights.

It was cold outside –a typical New York winter was brewing and the lawn was full of snow – but there was a warm glow inside as mother sat knitting in her chair and my dad sat reading the newspaper in his chair.

Peanuts, our beloved mutt, was curled up at the feet of my dad and I was in the middle of living room, laying on the floor feeling nice and cozy  and very secure while reading once again The Last of the Mohicans, the second book in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales.

I don’t recall where my brother David was. He was almost three years older than me and the third brother (he may have been at basketball practice at the school). I was the last of the Mohicans (Mosher’s), with my sister Minerva, the oldest, now married and already having three children of the six she would have (one, Amy died in 1958 at the age of five from brain cancer), and was living elsewhere in our little village of Portville.

If there is such a thing as a starry night, this was that night 66 years ago. I never felt like there was a care in the world and at 12 years old my world consisted of that house, that village, the hills surrounding the village and the river (Allegheny), which in the summer was shallow and could be waded across in some places and fished at in some other places, usually underneath the Steam Valley Bridge that spanned the river and shook every time a car rode over it. (It since has been replaced).

Winter nights in Portville could be very serene. Cold, yes, but there were something peaceful and calm about those nights. No wind, ice crystals shimmering off the snow, an earthly quiet that lulled one into thinking there is nothing better than this.

We had no fireplace. But if we had, it would have made a perfect Christmas card, with Christmas stockings hanging from its mantel and blazing fire spreading warmth to an onlooker. As it was, nights like this one, on the eve of Christmas Day, could not have been much more perfect.

It would not last. If there was a starting point for the dark years that would engulf me, this was it. There was joy and love, not stated love, but love just the same in that picture of me and my parents and Peanuts and, yet, it was a prelude to something that would upend my wonderful life and sent me spiraling into a deadly spin that would turn that perfect Christmas card into a nightmarish and dark blot.

The Grinch would arrive five months later. A day that continues to live in infamy for me came May 21, 1953 when a knock on my classroom door at Portville Central School drew the attention of my English teacher, Mr. Scott, who answered it and then walked across the room to my desk and said I was excused for the day.


As my classmates hooted and hollered that I was going home early and they were not, I walked out the door to find that darkness had begun t o seep into my life. My father, sister and brother David greeted me and told me that mama had died. It was a crushing blow that I didn’t immediate react to. I was too shocked.

Little did I know then, but my idyllic childhood of being prepared for a solid high school years of academic and athletic success, was soon to be in ruins. Some of us have turning points in life and this was a big one for me. My mama was everything to me and with her unexpected death at 48, I became lost.

It took some time. My “lost” didn’t happen overnight. It sort of dripped, dripped, dripped away like a leaky faucet. My father remarried a year later and at the same time we moved from Portville to Ferndale, WA where he was transferred to help start up the new Mobil Refinery at Cherry Pt.

There is no sense now to go over the details of my ensuing dark years. Bottom line is I never reached the potential I thought I had in my new environment. Essentially, I became a different person than the one I had envisioned. I staggered through my high school years, spent two floundering years in college at Alfred back in New York, went to California with three buddies (all now deceased) and then returned to Ferndale where I went back to college at Western Washington and finally after a lot of huffing and puffing got my degree in April of 1965.

I’m no different than a lot of others who have had a traumatic event turn their lives upside down. Some people will say that you are where you were supposed to be, and while that may be true, it also may not be true.

What would have happened to me if my mama had not died (her twin lived 50 more years)? Would she had put her foot down and convinced my dad not to transfer to Ferndale? After my dad retired from Mobil, he ran his own electrical contracting business for seven years, and made more money in those years than he did in 37 years with Mobil.

If she had lived and we had not moved, my life would have been pretty well set through high school. I would likely have starred in three sports – football, basketball and baseball – and would have been in the top 10 of my class academically.

But I don’t really know that. I can’t say for certain that is the way it would have gone. I wish though that I come have gone down that path where the light shone brightly. Instead, I walked into darkness for years before I saw the light at the end of a dark tunnel. I have found my path once again, and now I’m in the light as I near the end.

Did I have to go through the darkness to find the light? That’s also possible. I do know I found the spiritual, but it took the death of our granddaughter – Junior – in 1989 for me to find it.

Christmas has been good now for years. It will be again this year, although most of our five children are scattered from Alaska, to Nevada and Virginia.

I don’t read the Leatherstocking Tales anymore. Peanuts has been gone since 1956 and my dad left in 1980. But I’m still here and while I’m not moving as fast as I once did, I’m at least in the light.

May your Christmas also be in the light. Love those around you and keep the faith.

Be well pal.

Be careful out there.

Have a great day.

You are loved.