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And Santa Came A-Tumbling Down

santa fallling

The Friday after Thanksgiving, Polly bought a fresh Christmas tree from the Bryan Lions tree lot and brought it home. We have been putting up a fresh tree most of our married lives, 38 years, to be exact. Last Saturday, Polly, with the help of our oldest daughter, decorated the tree. I am a Lionel O-gauge train collector, a youthful hobby I have revived since I retired in 2019. Typically, I put a circular train track around the tree. In recent years, our youngest son, Josiah, has put the track up for me. This year, I decided to do this myself.

Last night, after Polly went to work, I slowly made my way upstairs, retrieving some train track, a diesel engine, a steam engine, cars, and a transformer. I am not supposed to go up or down the stairs by myself, but I did so anyway. I successfully made it up and down the stairs without incident. “See, Bruce, you can do it.” The Not-So-Good Book says, “pride goeth before a fall.”

I plopped down on the floor and started putting the track together. Once the oval was completed, I put the Santa Fe F3 A-B (A being the powered unit, B the unpowered unit) engines on the track, along with a selection of boxcars, a car hauler, a Gulf Oil tanker, and a lighted 70 year old caboose. I then turned on the 100-watt MTH transformer, powering the track, and the train began to move around the tree. Woo! Hoo!

Proud of my work, I put my hand on the credenza, pulled myself up, and started to pivot on my feet. And then . . . before I could blink — literally — my feet and legs went out from under me, sending me crashing headlong into the Christmas tree. The tree broke, pulling the trunk out of the tree stand and landing the tree on a nearby recliner. Christmas ornaments rained down on the carpet. I landed on top of the cast-iron steam engine that sat inside the track circle. I lay moaning (and cursing) on the carpet for several minutes. Bethany, our daughter with Down syndrome, frantically tried to help me. I suspect she thought I had killed myself. Eventually, I crawled to the couch 8 feet away and pulled myself up, much like my toddler grandson trying to climb on the couch to harass Grandpa. And there I remained until Polly came home from work at 2:30 am.

Damage? Two broken box cars, broken ornaments, a huge bruise on my hip, along with a cut on my side and scrapes on my arm. Today, I feel like someone beat me with a baseball bat. The tree, of course, is ruined. Tomorrow, we plan to go to Menards and buy an artificial tree. That is if I am able to move.

Polly, of course, is upset with me, and rightly so, though she has been compassionate and understanding. I know the rules. I know I can’t do certain (many) things anymore. I know I have a tendency to fall. But, in my mind I still think I can do what I want, that I am healthy, strong, and steady on my feet. Those days are gone — forever. I must embrace this new reality of mine, but damn, it’s hard — and depressing too.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    Oh Bruce! That must have hurt although it sounds like you didn’t break any bones.

    I have been going through some of what you experience, that is, the narrowing of what I can do. And I let it get to me for months. I’m finally starting to perk up, for really no good reason except being unhappy over reality doesn’t change it. I do hope that you can be more mobile and at least do those things you are capable of doing.

    Anyway, I’m sorry. I hope the extra pain goes away soon. And an artificial tree is all right, because it is the love you all put in it that matters. You, Polly, Bethany, and all your loved ones. Hope you feel better soon.

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    Oh no, Bruce, I am so sorry! Glad you weren’t hurt worse than you were! Polly is just mad at you because she’s concerned and loves you. Hope your recovery is swift.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, I felt pain reading about it. At least you weren’t hurt worse than you were. I hope your recovery is swift. If I lived any closer, I’d show up at your door with a pot of chicken soup (and, perhaps, a hot toddy!)..

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Bruce, I can so relate. My brain tells me that of course I can do a physical thing, I try and…well, sometimes the results are not nearly as dire as what you described, but very nonoptimal, and I’ve needed to call a family member to rescue me. Meanwhile, Brain is saying, “Wait, we can do this, what’s your problem?” while my body is saying, “Karen, could you please engage with us using your FRONTAL LOBE?!?”

  5. Avatar

    Sending you hugs Bruce. Some pains are worse than physical pain.

    I could be like MJ and make some soup, but that is some serious pain no one me.

  6. Avatar

    I don’t know if I would even try to replace the tree. I hope you get over your injuries soon.. Also, are sure you tripped on your own or did one of the branches of the Christmas tree trip you up. You were lucky that one of the branches didn’t go into one or both eyes or a branch go through your chest and puncture a lung or your heart. I shudder to think what the local newspapers might print and I’m not sure that I would have even mentioned on your blog that you fell onto the Christmas tree. One potential headline might have been ” Notorious local atheist suffers sudden, horrible death due to vengeful Christmas tree. ‘ Then some local extreme right-wing Christian pastor would claim you were a victim of the wrath of God and that God or Jesus Christ used the Christmas tree to enact vengeance. If you do decide to get another Christmas tree, I would ask for assistance in getting one and you should be wearing durable safety glasses, a large downy coat, and possibly a steel plate over your chest. anytime you are near a Christmas tree. Remember Charlie Brown and all the problems he had with his kites being eaten by the kite eating tree. I’m being sarcastic but I still think some trees have a mind of their own and they cause problems when people least expect it.

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Bruce Gerencser