Archive for December, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Past

A blur of lights and green, happy voices, a single wheel of a wheelchair, red-socked feet.  The camera tilts upright and finds it’s focus, pulling me like the Ghost of Christmas past back to another time when my parents were alive and the children were so small.

My mom in her wheel chair is singing and clapping.  Her voice is tuneless and her hands miss more than they connect but her smile is joyful, beautiful.   Our oldest son appears in frame, grabs his grandma’s hands and helps her clap in rhythm.  Spasms pull against his child’s strength but together they match the Christmas music in the background.  Our oldest daughter squeaks, “Good job, Grandma!  Good job!”

My brother is being a good sport in a pillow stuffed red sweater and Santa beard.  It’s clear he doesn’t know what to do.  The camera bounces as I pull my eye away from the view finder and tell him to find presents.  “Be Santa,” I say.  “Find something for Dad first.”

In response, our dad’s big booming baritone rises over the song that’s playing on the radio as he sings All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth! The words are all wrong, expect for the chorus, but his enthusiasm is sweet.  I remember how I smiled to hear him.  I turn the camera to capture him but only get to his chest before the camera tilts and flashes back to my brother, pulling from under the tree a present.

The video is about 15 minutes long and not once do I capture my father’s face.  I watch and smile through tears.  The only evidence that I was there is my voice and feet.  The only evidence of my father is his voice and flashes of his plaid shirt and brown pants;  hands carefully folding back paper from presents.

The kids run in and out of view, sometimes pulling faces and holding their arms out TA-DAH! as they jump into frame and out again, hamming it up for the camera.

I’ll never forget those Christmases past, those bright shining moments when we were happy and life seemed forever long.  It’s hard for me to believe that both of my parents are gone.  It was my father’s last Christmas.  He died two weeks prior to Christmas the coming year.

One day my children will sit as I am, remembering Christmases past and I’ll be nothing more than a memory.  I want more than anything to leave them with happy memories, which means that I have to live well now.  I have been given no promise of tomorrow.

My friends, I encourage you to do your best to put aside petty worries and concerns, family squabbles, stress.   I well know there are bigger, insurmountable obstacles in families.  I have my own.  But I lay those aside and focus on what’s possible.  I practice love and kindness, court patience.  I try not to sweat the small stuff.

“…once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!”

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens