During this season, so soon after his passing, I’ve been thinking about all the things Dad did or didn’t do, all our little moments of joy that you don’t really think about until you have to. In these moments, when things are moving along and I just want to go backward and into the times when things were carefree and normal, it forces me to think about why that is. Why do I want to go back there, really? What made it special?
Dad’s laugh and his ability to make others laugh is always the main reason and a common reason for most people that ever knew him. Genuine and good natured, that was Dad all the time. He could make random noises, he could make a single hand gesture or facial expression to make the whole room of family laugh.
When we’d open presents, I remember him always being the guy with the pocket knife. He’d most often offer to open present boxes with tape, even if I could easily open it, tear it or peel the tape off myself, he’d say “Here, I have a pocket knife, I’ll open that for ya, kid.” Other times, he was so into whatever he just opened that he wouldn’t notice me struggle with a box and I’d go over to have him open it because again, he was the guy with the pocket knife. I think he just enjoyed being that guy – the go-to guy, the fixer, the helper.
Many times in my over two decades of Christmases with him, a present would be bought and given to me or someone else that was clearly marked from him but my mom had been the one to buy and wrap it for him. He was just as shocked when we opened it. He’d say to Mom, “Did I buy that? I don’t remember getting that.”
Other times he’d watch so expectantly at me opening a gift that I knew it had to be good. Some of those times were like my keyboard, guitar, Thomas Rhett concert tickets or collectible model cars for my collection and many more over the years.
One day mom found the stash of presents my dad had in a large bag waiting to be wrapped up for Christmas from him. It was hard to see – all the things for just a few of us because he hadn’t finished shopping and some were just things he had us pick out about a month ago so he could just call that our Christmas. All the gifts he wouldn’t get to wrap or get to see us open.
I was able to open some of those today, presents I had no idea about. He knew me so well. He always gave the best gifts. Wasn’t flashy or overdone. They were real and always just what I wanted or needed. One year, he got me a Starbucks gift card and was concerned it wasn’t enough money for me. I assured him it was and that I had actually gotten other Starbucks gift cards as well, I’m doing great in that department! It was as if I could never have enough. I had more than I could ever ask for with such a Dad as he was to me.
He was always buying presents right up to the last minute. I know at least one year, probably every year, he’d still try to run to the store on CHRISTMAS EVE to get some more items as gifts or “I forgot to get a card, I need to run to Walgreens.” He’d come back and he would have gotten a HUGE bag full of stuff. “I thought you just went for a card?” “They had this 50% and isn’t it cool?” One year, pretty last minute he got a Santa suit to wear for my nephew’s excitement. It was pretty awesome.
Dad was a heck of a man. I could feel the love during every get together. Sometimes we’d just be in the room alone together and he’d always make a point to tell me how proud he was of my accomplishments. I never doubted it, but he wanted to drill it in to me I guess. I suppose you can never say those things to your kid enough, sometimes it could be just what they needed and didn’t know it at the time. I’m glad he did all that. Now I’ll never have to doubt going forward either.
This Christmas, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. It feels like another day without Dad.