A warm holiday letter from my sister Rose to our late father:
Dearest Dad, Can you believe it? It’s almost Christmas again. Mention Christmas, and the mind conjures up images of blinking trees, happy faces with opened presents, families sitting together and sharing a huge meal, choirs belting out Christmas carols in front of houses, etc. So why is it that every year, as December draws near, everyone’s stress level starts to build from worrying about the tree, the decorations, the gifts, the menu, the unwanted guests, to the direst of them all, the ballooning credit card balances? Nowhere is the search for perfection more apparent than shopping for Christmas presents and paraphernalia. This year is no different for me. Until….
I had a dream.
It was a dark and stormy night, and I was in my usual weather-matching mood. As I was getting ready for bed worrying about the hows, whats, wheres, and whys of tomorrow and beyond, there was a knock at the door. I was thinking, who on earth would be visiting at this hour of night?
I dragged my body out of bed, all the while grumbling unintelligible rude phrases.
I opened the door and there you were, all smiles, with grocery bag in each hand. You said, “Come on. I’m hungry. Let’s cook dinner.”
Really? Dad? Now?
You chuckled and said, “When did you ever adhere to a specific dinner hour?” Well, true!
Those familiar sounds – of chopping and oil sizzling in the wok – coming from the kitchen were oddly comforting, even at this time of night.
In no time, you had my favorite sautéed artificial crabmeat made with chicken and duck eggs, minced meat with chopped tomatoes, and candied potato balls spread out on my dining table. We sat and ate and reminisced…
About the time when you spent a week’s salary to buy filet mignon for my birthday dinner, and I mistakenly chopped it up thinking it was the usual tough, inexpensive meat. Instead of getting upset, you laughed and told me to always remember what’s important – my birthday, not the filet.
About the time I lost my book bag, for the umpteenth time, because of my short-term memory deficiency. I was reprimanded by every authority figure I encountered as to how I never learned from my mistakes. You, however, told me that not everything in life is a lesson. Sometimes things just happen. If there were a lesson here, it was that no one was perfect and I had to learn to forgive myself and move on.
About the time when you performed that neat trick by bending and covering part of your thumb to make it look as if you had pulled your finger off of your hand. I cried thinking you were hurt and you laughed and showed me it was just an illusion. Dad, no one but you, have the ability to turn tears into laughter in 60 seconds.
I did not want the dream to end, but reality intervened. I got up the next morning, went into the kitchen, and sat where I sat with you the night before. The aroma of your cooking and the timbre of your voice still lingered. I decided right then and there that this was the day to start anew. To evaluate once again what’s important in my life, and to make time to fully appreciate it. I need to set realistic expectations, rather than relying on the illusively high self-efficacies that spawn anxiety and ultimately disappointment. Dad, for the first time in a long time, I felt light as a feather. You did it again. Tears to laughter, in record time.
Merry Christmas, Dad. This will be the sixteenth year you are not spending Christmas with us, and I miss you just as much as the day you left.
Your third daughter,