Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)
TITLE: Common Thread
By Rick Higginson
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The holidays paled some when work moved us out of state, and the drive to spend Christmas with our families turned into hours instead of minutes. We began skipping more gatherings, choosing instead to stay home and relax. It seemed people didn’t quite understand what it involved for us to “stop by” on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It meant arranging time off from work for travel, and finding someone to feed the pets while we were gone. We would have more time in the car, rolling down the freeway, than we would have to visit. There were gas costs, and if we wanted halfway comfortable accommodations, the expense of a hotel. Many years, the trip just wasn’t in the budget.
There are many Christmases that swirl together in my memory, save one. It was the year I had the definite impression early in the year that I needed to make the trip out and spend it with my family. Perhaps it was God whispering in my ear, or perhaps it was just seeing what was happening; I’m not quick to accept every thought that crosses my mind as coming from God, though He has certainly spoken to me enough times.
That was the last year Dad would be with us for Christmas.
I can still see him sitting in his easy chair, opening his presents. Some of what he received was so mundane; t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Some of what he received was precious – time with his children and grandchildren. While his disease was diminishing his ability to do many things, it hadn’t yet robbed him of his ability to smile and express his love for us.
It would be this Christmas that I would learn one reason why so many other Christmas Days melded together in my mind; because he was a big part of all of them. I cannot recall a Christmas in my entire life when Dad wasn’t home with us. He was never traveling over the holidays, nor was there ever a time when he and Mom had difficulties that caused him to live elsewhere. When the gifts wore out and the moments of the days were forgotten, those who had given the gifts and shared the moments with us were still with us.
Right up through that Christmas, when something or Someone told me to make sure I spent Christmas with my parents. It lacked the almost chaotic atmosphere of the larger holiday gatherings of my youth, when my grandparents’ children and grandchildren all converged on a single home for a huge gift exchange. That year was peaceful and warm; just my parents, myself, and my children and son-in-law. The gifts were opened in a very orderly manner, and later in the morning than those years when we kids would try to roust our parents out of bed as early as we could, eager to see what was waiting under the tree.
It was Christmas Day, and Dad was in his chair, and Mom was in hers, and the kids were sitting on the couch, and I was over by the television. The only person missing was my wife, who had not been able to get the time off from work to go with us. For the final time, Dad was making Christmas memories for us; smiles and laughter and love, and now I find myself wanting to capture that same feeling he gave us all those years. I couldn’t remember a Christmas Day without Dad, for even when we were far away, there was still the phone call and the loving wishes.
There should have been some kind of ceremony or ritual that Christmas Day, to mark that distinction when my Dad held the common thread for the final time, and released it into my hands. Perhaps there was, and that was why I needed to be there.
I just couldn’t see it until I noticed the common thread in my hands.
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