Christmas won't be the same without my Dad around this year.
"For me?!" he'd say, a vision of pleasure, always appreciative regardless of the gift. Every year we struggled with what to get for Dad. Well, Dad was well-known for his use of tape. Masking tape, duct tape, electrical tape. It didn't matter. In the past, he'd made his own envelopes, made boxes, and even managed to catch a mouse with tape. Anything was possible with enough tape. The year he got a boxful of every type of tape imaginable, his belly laugh filled the room.
What I remember most about Dad and Christmas, though, is his ceaseless enjoyment of being surrounded by his family. He just loved being in there, sitting in the middle of everything, with the bustling of excitement going on around him.
Last year, I had the privilege of bringing my Dad shopping for my Mom's Christmas present. It is perhaps the sweetest of all my Christmas memories.
Dad asked us to bring him to the store to shop for a Christmas gift for Mom. Sensing something was up, my Mom had hinted to me that she would like some special perfume.
As I wheeled Dad toward the perfume section, we passed the rings, and Dad asked me to stop. He was interested in buying Mom a new ring. We went all over that jewelry section. I modeled many rings for Dad. We asked numerous questions. Yes, we were those customers; the ones that hog the saleslady and never buy.
But it was never quite right. Dad clearly wanted to get something that was just right.
A small shake of his head told me it was time to move on, and so we did. Around and around we went. Finally, I suggested we might have better luck with the perfume.
After awhile, the salesladies knew enough to leave us alone. We were in our own orbit, going our own pace. No one was going to speed us up.
Dad sniffed about 30 different perfumes. I don't know how he did it. We'd stop by a shelf of perfumes. I'd spray a tester and slip the card under his nose.
Sometimes he would know right away, and he'd give his head a small shake. Sometimes he'd go for a second sniff, and then shake his head. Only once did he sniff three times. I did think maybe that would be the one. But no. The third sniff was followed by a small, almost imperceptible, shake of his head.
And we went back to the rings.
I can't tell you how long we spent there. I didn't feel the need to hurry; didn't want to hurry. I knew I was in the middle of a life event.
My Dad wanted to buy my Mom a new wedding ring.
He didn't know if he would be here next Christmas. It had to be perfect.
Something that fit her, fit him, somehow captured the love, commitment, and memories of their lives together. Six children. Moves every two year. Good times. Hard times. Everything. All of it. He wanted to express his heart.
In the end, he did find the ring that was just right. My mom wears it with love every day.
And I? I have the sweetest memory ever of my Dad searching high and low for that one last perfect gift for his wife of 55 years.