Yesterday, I helped my father do a bit of his ‘first minute’ Christmas shopping. It was a mere three days before his scheduled gift exchange under tents of poles where cactus play. He had not a single thing in mind to purchase. “Dad, do you know what size she wears?” I asked, looking up at his befuddled face. “No, why don’t you slip it on?” I obliged him. Soon I was swimming in an ocean blue blazer that hung to my knees. My arms swung back and forth as if in a marching band. If I clapped my hands once or twice, I’d become a clown jumping in a three-ring circus for a show later that day!
My dad pulled out his crumpled list from the pocket he kept it hidden in. He handed it to me then. I smoothed it out the best I could, carefully reading printed letters spaced upon even yellow lines. Scribbled in blue ink were names of everyone he loved in alphabetical order. There were no sizes, no choices of colors, or items of chosen gifts to be bought. I could tell I was on my own. Not entirely, I had my father’s company……..
I thought back. As the oldest child of five, I had ‘helped’ my father with his shopping more than once throughout the years. He had often asked me to choose a special gift for my mother. She is gone now and I live far away from Dad. It’s been a while since we’ve shared a special day like this together. A day of ‘shopping.’ I’m not entirely sure he would use shopping and special in the same context, but never-the-less, it was. In the end at least.
We both had forgotten how much fun it could be! Each store we went in, each treasure we hunted for, we’d laugh upon the floor telling stories of long ago or ones of yesterday. We carried packages to the car, stopped for ‘coffee breaks’ and rested weary feet, before we started all over again.
As the crescent moon rose in the desert sky and before heading to his house of twinkling lights and mistletoe, we stopped for a quick supper that lasted hours until our eyelids nearly closed. I thought I knew all of my father’s secrets and stories of his past. How wrong I was! Suddenly in the quiet of a tiny cafe, he felt safe enough to let some new words flow. I can not share them here for they are safe within my soul.
Amazing my father is. Priceless this time alone I have with him. It is the best Christmas present money could never buy…….