I thought I’d write a little about Christmas, seeing as it’s that time of the year. Christmas brings both fond and sad memories for me, but mostly fond ones 🙂 I imagine Christmas has this effect on most people. If you have any memories please feel free to share. I love to read a good story. This post is probably the most personal I’ve ever posted online, but it really made me realize what the season of Christmas is about, and so much more.
The most poignant memory for me is about my dad. I’m the youngest of six kids (my oldest sibling is 15 years older than me), and I was always a daddy’s girl. I’d hang out with dad, play card games, go fishing, and I’d always refill his Coca-Cola for him. I loved and looked up to my father, he was my hero. He wasn’t big on expressing his love vocally, but he’d always find a way to show it. There was one thing always concerned me growing up. My dad was a smoker. Even at a young age I could hear his coughing bouts in the middle of the night. In the back of my mind I sometimes wondered if he’d stick around to see me grow up, graduate, and get married.
Eight years ago, exactly one week before Christmas, my mom and dad went out to dinner with his siblings. The rest of us stayed home, we played rummy and watched tv. The phone rang and one of my brothers answered. We didn’t think much of it until he came in and told us that dad was in the hospital. He had a heart attack. Needless to say, we were all shocked. We all thought that maybe someday something might happen, but we ( and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) never expected it so soon.
I grew up going to church, I was always a good kid. I prayed most every night. But I never prayed like I did after I heard that my dad was in the hospital. I hit my knees, bawling, and said all I wanted for Christmas was my dad. That’s it. I would do anything for that.
That was a rough night. We were able to go visit my dad at the hospital. My dad, the gruff n’ tuff railroad electrician who was tan from years of working outside, was pale as could be with an oxygen mask over his face. In such a situation what can you say? I said probably one of the worst things a person can say, but in my mind it needed to be said. “Dad… are you going to stop smoking now?” My brother nudged me, but I still don’t regret saying it. My dad motioned for me and my brother to come over. He started touching his oxygen mask, so my brother rearranged it, but my dad shook his head slightly and started trying to tug the mask down. My brother put it down for him, and my dad looked at me and puckered his lips a little. I leaned over and kissed him, and we put the mask back on.
We then went to talk to mom, and she told us he’d have to be moved to St. Mark’s downtown for heart surgery (triple bypass).
The next few days are a bit of a blur for me. I still went to school, but I could hardly concentrate. I remember the day of his surgey I was freaked out all day. All went well, however. My family visited him the first chance the doctors let us. It was hard to see my father, excruciatingly pale with stitches running down his chest. But he was alive. Tired and sore, but alive. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d be able to be home for Christmas.
Here’s the most spectacular part. The day before Christmas the front door opened, followed by dad with an oxygen tank in tow. He was ginger in his movements, and tired easily, but we were all so happy we didn’t even care. Needless to say, that was the best Christmas ever. I don’t remember many of the gifts I received that year, but I do (and always will) remember the joy of having him be with us. There were many smiles and some tears.
As an added bonus he quit smoking, cold turkey, something that must have been hard for someone who smoked for over 30 years. Eventually he started going to church with my mom again. Just over a year ago he and my mom were sealed in the Jordan River Temple. And this year, 6 months ago, he was able to attend my own temple wedding at the Salt Lake Temple.
If you ask him today about giving up his habit cold turkey, he usually says something to the effect of “It was a no brainer. I wasn’t done living yet. I had to get to the temple with my wife and see my first grandson!”
Every year at this time I give a little prayer in my heart in thanks and I think back on that Christmas for a few moments.
Have a story you want to share? Tell me in the comments or send it to my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwanzaa and Festivus!
I know I already posted this photo before, but it’s the most recent one I have of my dad 🙂