Home for the Holidays Part 5
In 1985, Christmas changed forever in our home. My mother Joyce, the sun that my father and I orbited around, was gone. We still managed to put up a tree but honestly, no tinsel or blinking lights could replace the sparkle in my mother’s eyes. We no longer needed several months to plan and buy gifts so that we could surprise her on Christmas morning. It was now just my father and me – two grown men feeling sad and lost.
That first Christmas on our own, I over-compensated and bought my dad an expensive grandfather clock. It was something he had always wanted and something that my mother and I had considered buying him the previous year. I wanted to make him happy. He was at a total loss as to what I might want or need so I found myself opening boxes of impersonal cash. However, a couple of years later, he surprised me with a Cadillac on Christmas morning. A most extravagant and impractical gift for my line of work.
Friends would invite us to join them for dinner on Christmas eve after we attended the service at our church. It was wonderful to be with them and nice to have a break from the silence my dad and I often struggled with in trying to keep our conversations going. In time, we came out of our mourning and made new traditions. Or basically, no longer focused on the old. If we had a new tradition, it was simply to find distractions to get us through the holidays.
There was one Christmas eve when we did not have a dinner invitation. We left the church service hungry but not anxious to go home. Instead we found ourselves at a Waffle House by the interstate. We had a great time as we enjoyed having breakfast for dinner.
Another year I convinced my dad to fly out on Christmas day and spend a few vacation days together in our native Florida. Although he felt some guilt in leaving home on Christmas, in time he relaxed and enjoyed himself.
As the years progressed, my dad went back to his earlier ways of decorating the exterior of our home with lights, reindeer, garlands and wreaths. Since my mother’s Santa and Nativity collections stayed out year-round, only the family Christmas tree was needed to add to the interior decor. My dad would fantasize about having a walk-in closet where the fully-decorated tree could simply slide in and be stored during the off months. But that was a dream that would never be realized.
The excitement and anticipation of Christmas morning was gone. I no longer came over on Christmas eve to spend the night. Christmas morning became very leisurely as I arrived mid-morning to open the few gifts under the tree. We would enjoy our breakfast and then spend most of the day together. By early evening, I’d head back home, after all, tomorrow would be another work day.
After my dad passed away, I’d spend Christmas with his sisters in Florida. One aunt would buy gift-wrapped assorted gadgets that often appeared in the men’s section of department stores. She would forget what she had given me in the past so I would end up with multiple air gauges for my tires, gloves, bedroom slippers and such. But God love her, she tried.
My aunts are now gone and Christmas without family has lost the wonderment it once held. It has become nothing more than just the rare day off. However, I can still remember the excitement of my childhood Christmas mornings and the parents that loved me with all of their heart.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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