My Christmas story in the Star Tribune

Marvin Johnson holds his grandson, the author of this blog, on Christmas, 1980.

Marvin Johnson holds his grandson, the author of this blog, on Christmas, 1980.

Merry Christmas, dear reader.

I’m very proud to share this piece I wrote for the Star Tribune, which runs today as part of their “10,000 Takes” essay series. It’s a Christmas story, but much more than that. In fact, I’ve never written anything as personal as this piece, certainly not for a large publication.

I’m a little nervous.

This is a story about a man, my grandfather Marvin Johnson, but also about me. Also my dad. And the paternal grandmother I never met. This is a story about how alcoholism reaches down through the generations with an unsparing hand.

It’s also about redemption. Rebirth. Getting up.

I generally dislike addiction memoirs. It’s so easy for them to indulge the author, or demand praise where it isn’t necessary. I wrote this piece out of pure emotion. My grandfather had an accident recently, he nearly died, so I wrote how that made me feel. But I couldn’t talk about this story without telling the whole story. So I did.

I hope it’s clear I only did so for two reasons: 1) to show how much I love my grandpa, and 2) to perhaps inspire someone who needs help this time of year.

If you like the piece, please share it from the Star Tribune site.

Meanwhile, it’s time for enter another hot idle. I’m going to try posting nothing but my Sunday column for the next week. I hope to return late next week with my Top Posts of 2015.

To you who read this blog, who support my work, who debate in the comments and believe in a strong future for Northern Minnesota — thank you. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and Happy New Year to all! The only thing we know about 2016 is that we will need each other more than ever.


  1. A fine, and brave, piece of writing. My best to you and yours.

  2. Very nice piece. Hope your ongoing recovery continues to go very well.

  3. Thank you for writing it. What a clearheaded and sensitive tribute to your grandfather, and the intersection with your own path.

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