Fathers and Christmas

A little over a year ago, a close friend of mine suffered through a rapid descent and death of his father, a man to whom he was very close. This friend, over numerous lunch break cigarettes and happy hour drinks, could talk for hours about his dad: From anecdotes about his accolades as a father to poignant concerns over an aging parent. It is the stories we accumulate over the years that measure the progress of our lives. It is to the fondest to whom we share them.

Indeed, stories are the links that bond us to eternity.

I sat in a pew listening to the celebration of a life of a man I’d met just a few times, but someone whom I felt I knew well. I nodded in agreement when someone cherished a trait they loved so much; I laughed at stories I’d heard before, at specific sayings or platitudes I’d known him to employ.

Someone, I think my friend’s brother, mentioned how much his dad loved Christmas. That he enjoyed dressing up as Santa and giving gifts. That he was always the storyteller, but around Christmas this trait really shined. He’d hold host around a table or a living room, enjoying not only the company, but the season and the sentiment that it brings forth.

At this, I was moved profoundly for particularly strong reasons.

I still hold a fondness to my memories of Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve. Growing up, Christmas Eve was always at our home, and we entertained what seemed like the masses. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors all made it to our home on Christmas Eve. It was the day we looked forward to even more than Christmas. It was festive; It was fun. As we got older, we shared in the merriment of drinks and sitting in the same room as the adults. My dad was the ring-leader of this fun.

But somewhere, somehow that stopped. My father became unhappy and we became unhappy. We moved out. Christmas Eve stopped. My parents got divorced and Christmas time became some fractured, fragmented holiday that caused more stress than happiness. We had to travel to two different homes. A holiday that came with so much joy became a holiday that I openly despised.

Part of it was selfish. My wife’s family wanted to be together on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after, presents with Grandma at some point. It was all what I used to have but didn’t anymore. It made me sad.

The wound of the divorce and it’s subsequent bitterness has receded a little bit, to where we share Christmas Eve with my family now, both parents invited and sharing the same space for a finite amount of time each December 24th.

But it was in hearing about my friend’s dad and his love for Christmas that made me alter my course last year.

“I want to be remembered for that,” I told my wife, then pregnant with our second child, a son, born in March. “I want to be the guy who loves Christmas. I want to our children to remember their dad as the guy who always had the most fun on Christmas.”

Now, I’m fully on board. There’s no more bitterness about the slow-moving churning unhappiness that eventually came divorce; There’s no more stress about heading to who’s house, when, and didn’t we see these people yesterday?

Death often makes us reconsider the way we’re living. Often, though, there’s little that carries forward other than the faux-resolution that takes place inside a church pew. This, however, was my resolution: To be the father every kid wants during the holiday season.

It’s not even December and the house is decorated with lights and green and red; Stocking are hung, and a countdown clock sits a 28 days. There are snowmen and Santa’s all around.  At two years and eight months, my children don’t know about the magic of Christmas yet, though the older one is learning (and loving it). My rekindled energy for Christmas will hopefully be a catalyst for the rest of their lives.

My dad and my friend’s dad aren’t that dissimilar, in the end. The spirit of Christmas they held in such high regard has been passed down to ensure it’s legacy. I’m happy to keep it going for them both, as I know many more will too.

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