If you don’t, then stop reading now. otherwise you can continue beyond the cut.
I love Christmas. I love doing all of those once-a-year things; drinking eggnog, Christmas music, lights, decorating a tree, etc. But mostly I love watching people open gifts – seeing their faces light up with joy.
This year I had a little extra cash on hand, so I spent pretty big on Dad. I got him a pair of DVD’s. One was about his beloved Detroit Tigers and their World Series successes, and the second a historic look at the black migration into Muskegon in the ’30s and ’40s.
I also went a bit overboard and got him an iPod Nano and a case for it, along with the traditional Irish Setter Club calendar.
Our home theater system has a gimmick to connect an iPod and play it through the system while displaying album art on the TV. I knew that once he figured it out he would love it, so I spent weeks loading ALL of his CD collection into the iPod.
We went a little light on the decorations this year – between caring for Dad and coordinating adoptions for Save Our Setters I just didn’t have time to do much. But I had the holiday menus that Dad wanted (waffles & sausage for breakfast, cheese plate for lunch, and ham with cheesy potatoes and tossed salad for supper). I had two extra large rawhide bones for Sue and Shemp (our most recent foster) to discover under the tree. And I had these very cool presents for Dad. I was all set for a truly great Christmas.
But I’ve learned that being a caregiver means a never-ending series of surprises.
Breakfast was a disaster. With the help of our antique waffle iron, I invented a new delicacy – scrambled waffles – and managed to burn the sausage in the process. We had a good laugh about it and managed to enjoy eating the mess.
After breakfast was cleared away, I put the dogs outside so that they could come back in and discover their gifts under the tree. As they were joyously devouring their rawhides, I asked Dad when he wanted to open our presents. He responded with a typical “whenever it is convenient for you.” Well, since the only gifts under the tree were the ones I had for him, I decided that I’d better vacate the living room for a bit and give him a chance to get my gifts out. So, I simply said, “Let’s do it later, I’m going downstairs to take a nap.” I was sure that this would give him the time he needed. I knew that my sister-in-law Karla had been working on something for me with him – and since Karla is a great gift-giver I was eagerly anticipating a wonderful surprise for myself.
After a nap, I came back upstairs and made lunch for us. After lunch, I suggested that we should go open gifts. I was a little surprised to see that the only gifts under the tree were still my gifts to Dad. So I thought that he’d just direct me to go get my gift when the time came. We sat down and Dad opened his gifts one-by-one. He was even more delighted than I anticipated. This was going to be a truly great Christmas.
And then the boom dropped. Dad looked at me and asked “where are the presents for you?” He was very upset that there were no presents for me. He broke into tears, fearing that he had ruined Christmas by not getting me a gift. I’ve only seen my father cry twice before – he is simply not a man given to tears. I told him that I don’t need presents to unwrap – his presence in my life every day is gift enough for me.
And truly every day is Christmas for us. We have everything that we need, his insurance covers his medical bills, we have a roof over our heads and plenty of good food to eat. We have the joy that our Sue brings to our lives every day, and we have the great fortune to be able to improve the lives of a series of foster dogs. And we have each other. Truly, what more could anybody want.
We recovered, Dad was like a little kid playing with his music collection from the comfort of his chair by remote control. The next door neighbors stopped by to thank us for our gifts and watch him play with his Christmas toy. And dinner was delicious, if I may be allowed to brag about my own cooking.
So that was my Christmas. Once again, Dad taught me the lesson about loving life and enjoying the treasures that we have. And once again, I had the pleasure of telling him how much I love him. And if being with people you love isn’t the whole point of Christmas, then I guess I don’t want to know what is the point.
And thank you to all of Dad’s friends who have stopped by for a visit or called him to chat. He may not always remember with his brain anymore, but his heart remembers the love and friendship that you show him.
MERRY CHRISTMAS every one!