Dad’s Presence – the Best Present

I see my breath in the brisk air. Frost covers the green grass where light snow once rested. Large ornaments hang from our 40-foot evergreen tree sheltering a life-size nativity scene. Faithful Joseph and Mother Mary hover close and guard precious baby Jesus—the baby who will be crowned King. Mary and Joseph know of expectations not working out as originally planned. Yet, their story unfolds exactly the way it was meant to.

Reminds me of our family story. We thought Dad and Mom would age together holding hands and watch our children and grandchildren grow. Instead we lived out a completely different story where Mom passed just short of their 40th wedding anniversary. Dad wandered from us like a lost puppy dog. I wish I could erase the years missed after he remarried and moved 900 miles away. We tried our best to connect with him, but his new family thwarted our efforts. After his wife’s passing, we became aware of the neglect he’d endured and extent of his dementia. Armed with prayer and support, we rescued Dad and brought him home.

That was then; this is now—Christmas Day. Dad is here with us!

From the closet, I bring down the white tablecloths and napkins: linens passed down from my Mom and her Mom. Running my hands over the fabric creases, I imagine those who’d broken bread together over these cloths. I set the table with our light blue china plates edged with petite white flowers—gifts from our wedding day 45 years ago. The night before an event, Mom and Dad brought out the special occasion best, set the table, and ponder where each person should sit.

I lift my husband’s Grandmothers’ orange and blue flowered serving bowls and gravy boat from the shelf. A few age stress marks give the pieces character. Just like us. Together, our family weathered sickness, death, re-marriage, and estrangement. We persevered.

Showering Dad with hugs, we talk of his old farm days, the appreciated tips he received for bussing tables as a teenager, and vintage cars.

Dad’s favorite foods adorn the Christmas table: ham, turkey and stuffing, and all the rest. Like old times, Dad and my brother-in-law fight for who gets the coveted turkey neck. Dad and my hubby’s Mom talk in their own little world. I smile as they share their aches, pains, and memories.

After dinner, we clear the table and prepare for the reading of Jesus’ birth.

For unto us a child is born … and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Dad settles into a  recliner and nods off. I hope he dreams good dreams. He might not remember our names or recognize us, but he still tells goofy jokes with joy in his eyes. Knowing he’s safe and having him here with us is my favorite Christmas present.

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