Happy Holidays, ya'll! Yeah. Just spreading the joy.
I love Christmas (as I've expressed before), but I am in a funk that I can't seem to shake. Sure, part of it has to do with having to be at work today when my husband and kid are at home (and only 7 other people were on my bus today - obviously approximately 75% of the downtown work force is not working today). Plus, I have to work on Saturday. Bah.
But it's more than that. Christmas isn't quite the same as it used to be. There are some small things (we can't stay to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve since it's past Riley's bedtime), but there is a significant change that started a few years ago - my dad has opted out of Christmas. It started not long after we moved Christmas from his house to my brothers. He stated he'd rather it be that way, but then he stopped coming. He gave away his decorations, and he stayed home declining any invitation that came his way.
|2008 - The last Christmas Eve spent with the family|
As I said, this has been going on for at least a few years, but this year seemed more difficult for me to stomach. Maybe it was knowing that my step-mom, Ann, died in May so my dad wouldn't even be visiting her at her memory care facility. Maybe it's because my dad has had a lot of health issues this year and I'm scared that our years to celebrate might be limited. This past year alone my dad had surgery on his eyes, got a pacemaker, had surgery for carpel tunnel (and another one planned in 2013). Plus, there are the thyroid checks, the eye infection, the cancerous moles... he even had a doctor's appointment on Christmas Eve.
My dad will be 85 in February. I know he could live many years yet, but this was the year the health issues ramped up and the year Ann died. It seems different. I know my dad knows it too, but he doesn't talk about it. That's not like him, whether it's his generation, gender, or just him. Sometimes I wish he would open up to me about these things and then I think I'd probably rather not know. I worry enough as it is.
Through this all my dad doesn't seem depressed or anything (there have been times in the past I've been worried about that). He is still active and engages in other family events (sometimes a little prompting is needed). He's sort of an old curmudgeon, but that's been holding pretty steady for 20 some years. Nothing new there.
So he might not have attended a family Christmas, but I made a point to go see him after visiting with my in-laws on Christmas Day. With Riley down for her nap, I headed over to my dad's with a couple packages from family that I picked up on Christmas Eve. My dad is at that age where he says he needs nothing so we all buy or make him food. Soup is a big item for him this time of year. I made meatloaf and cookies (with Riley's assistance, of course).
And each year I make a family calendar. It really started out for him so he could remember everyone's birthday, but he always displayed it at Ann's facility. I started making two, but he still wouldn't use his to write on. If anything, I think he enjoys being able to see the pictures from the last year.
This year I got him one more gift. Something I have been working on for years and finally decided to complete. Years ago, my dad gave me an old Huber beer box filled mostly with pictures from when he was in the Army during the Korean War. He was drafted to build bridges in Germany - bridges that were destroyed during World War II. I put most of the pictures in a couple albums, but never finished until recently (ok, I still have a few more pages to complete, but it's almost done). I brought these over to my dad's and got to listen to my dad share some stories of that time that I had never heard before.
I now know how to use a bayonet to find a land mine and that his company (company A) lost a couple "Indians to them because they didn't like to listen to directions" (yeesh, dad).
I know that the ship engine broke down on the way home from Europe during a huge storm. They were told to prepare to abandon ship, but weren't sure that would help them based on the size of the waves. My dad made a point to share how much the boat smelled from all the guys getting sick. Luckily, they got the ship up and running and returned all the soldiers stateside safe and sound if not a little woozy.
I got to learn about the other guys in the service. This one hated it. That one loved it, but was a huge drinker. My dad expressed regret over the pictures he didn't get (like the big guy who didn't make it through basic training), but was more surprised at the number of pictures he did take.
|My dad, Frank, is on the right.|
There are pictures of him and the guys with artillery draped over their shoulders, of them hanging out at their camp near Hamburg, of the travels they made to Italy, France, Holland... There are postcards from the 1950's and other trinkets.
I love when my dad talks about these moments. Not only does the topic interest me, but I see him light up a little. Some of the curmudgeon disappears. I forget for a moment that I am hanging out alone with my dad on Christmas day when just a few years ago 30 + people would fill his house with holiday cheer. I think "at least I still have this". I have my dad right now. He might not be around forever, but I am going to take advantage of the time I have with him... curmudgeon and all.