Christmas and the coming New Year will be a little different for me this year, in fact, it will be a lot different; and this is one of the hardest things I’ve attempted to sit down and write about for quite a long time.
This year I join a host of others who will no longer have their parents around to help celebrate the holidays. My father, Kenny, passed away in 2012 and my mother, Dorothy, joined him in heaven this past Oct. 15 making this the first year neither of them will grace us with their presence during the Christmas season. Even now as I ponder the thought while I sit here writing this column, it seems impossible that so many years have passed and what was once considered the normal routine and taken for granted, has slipped away like a vapor into thin air forever. Though they are no longer with us, memories of Mom and Dad reside in the hearts, minds, and souls of all those who knew and loved them; I’m thankful my memories are great ones just like my folks!
Looking back, I remember the excitement in the eyes of my two loving parents who watched with anticipation as my sisters and I opened our gifts on Christmas morning. I can almost smell the aroma of new rubber tires on the bicycles parked by the Christmas tree and hear the voices of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing “Please Christmas don’t be Late” as the scratched-up vinyl record turned round and round on the amazing old black Victrola.
I also recall the excitement of New-Year’s eve, enjoying a slice of Chef Boyardee Pizza and a small glass of Pepsi while listening to Guy Lombardo’s Orchestra … there I was, lying on the couch by our old wood-burning stove fighting off sleep while watching our little black and white TV waiting to see the big ball drop at midnight on Time Square in New York City. I seldom made it past 11 p.m. and vaguely recall being tucked in when it was all said and done. I was probably about ten or twelve years old before I lasted long enough to see that ball come down! Regardless of the situation and challenges we faced, we were always sincerely loved … you could see it in their eyes.
I dare not dwell upon those thoughts too long unless I want to view the world through tear-filled eyes, yet they are joy-filled tears so a little trip down memory lane now and then can be a good thing; the trick is not to linger there too long. Tears of joy can easily change to tears of sorrow if one is not careful and the latter does not make for good company in the long run; and neither does a broken heart.
In some ways, is seems regrettable that we only get one chance at life; we all have had our “If I had to do all over again” moments; however, if we strive to focus on the little things, the good in life, we will realize “our cup runneth over” as King David noted in the 23rd Psalm. The key is to keep it simple and recognize the abundance of wonderful things we should be thankful for here and now and not dwell too much on the past, worry about the future, or waste all our time figuring out ways to get more “stuff”.
There is an endless array of treasure right before us if only we would take time to recognize and appreciate it. The loss of my parents has taught me that we usually don’t appreciate the opportunities we’ve missed until well after the fact; but there’s no turning back so we need to learn from our mistakes and make the best of the remaining life we have regardless of the circumstances at hand. Everyone has different ways of measuring their degree of success in life, however, as the old song suggests; we don’t want to “overlook an orchid while searching for a rose” so maybe it’s time to stop chasing rainbows for a bit and spend a little time in some good old-fashioned conversation with a dear loved one, neighbor or friend. Maybe, just maybe, we should put the cell phone or TV control down and go visit someone, engage in some meaningful face-to-face conversations while we still can.
While technology has its merit; and texting, emails, skype, and phone calls are ok, they will never equal or replace the joy of beholding the unspoken beauty found in peering into another’s eyes, hearing their voice or the touch of a dear one’s hand. This week I was reflecting on some of the good times had over time and the people who made the memories so special. Without exception, each face I “saw” in my mind’s eye was made unique by the expression in the eyes, like those I studied when telling my daughters a story before bedtime; they spoke multitudes without uttering a sound and I was made a little richer by the experience. I was thinking of the last time I looked into the eyes of my father; though just one day away from leaving us forever, his eyes were aglow with an appreciation for our presence, and his tender voice revealed how thankful he was for our visit. When it was time to leave, I placed my hands on Daddy’s once strong, but now tired shoulders, and gazed into his eyes; he was looking back with the same earnest stare and for just one small moment in time, all was calm, the earth stood still while we savored that unique spiritual connection. Later when leaving, we hugged each other and I said “I sure love you Dad”….He replied “I love you too you ole’ scalawag”…. and, we both shed a few tears of joy. Looking back, as I walked away, I think he knew his time was up and this might be the last time for us, he told me so with his eyes.
I will never forget the sound of Dad’s voice or the last words he spoke to me, more so, I will never forget that look in his eyes … and I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the memory! The same may be said for the last twelve days of my mother’s life as she lie waning in a hospital bed. Even when she was too weak to speak, her eyes spoke volumes of her appreciation for those who took the time to stop in and see her, pray with her, or sit by her bedside so there would be someone there holding her hand when she woke up in between those precious naps. And of course, there’s the look of love and thanksgiving when my precious wife Darlene returns home from running some unexpected errands and finds the dishes washed and put away, the floors swept, and the house in order. Priceless!
Something to ponder; we all know people who will not be with family this Christmas; some have lost a husband, their wife, a child or a dear loved one. Some are facing their first Christmas alone and are reminded of their loss which is especially hard to deal with this time of year. Some have family problems, some are struggling with illness, or financial woes and need a friend or neighbor to talk to or a little friendly advice … some are sitting across the room from us in our own homes and have not heard a genuine compliment or a kind word of encouragement from us for a long, long, time; what are we waiting for? They all just need someone to look them in the eyes and let them know they are loved and that someone cares. Cherish the opportunities at hand … and concerning the weak, remember it is more blessed to give than to receive.
During this holiday season and in the coming year, don’t overlook the opportunities to bring a little joy into someone’s life and create some fond memories for down the road, kind words don’t cost a dime yet are more valuable than gold. All of us will face trials sooner or later and it’s a whole lot easier to bear a heavy load when we have a little help. There are some things money can’t buy; for many, the gift they need cannot be put in a box and gift-wrapped it needs to come from the heart; they need to see it in our eyes!
The writer, who resides in Sidney, is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.