Christmas Presence: Father’s Final Lesson

Hammond, Indiana; November 1997

“Are you all coming home for Christmas?” my father slowly and softly asked as he looked at me through his thick glasses, sitting in the wheelchair. His vision had weakened. His face had thinned and taken on a lighter complexion than I remember, back when I was looking at his unconscious body in the ICU, months prior. His hair had all gone from light gray with peppered traces of black to near white. His movement, limited, having suffered several debilitating strokes.

“No sir,” I answered. “I don’t have any time off I can take.” I had used up the remaining vacation and PTO days, making the emergency trip home when I first heard that he had taken ill.

“I want everyone home for Christmas,” he declared as his weakened voice got softer.

“I know, but just being here now was a favor from the company. We won’t be able to make it.”

“I want the family here together. I’m going to get you all home for Christmas…”

Those were his last words to me before I hugged, kissed and told him I loved him. His last words before I hurried into the parking lot and collapsed to the ground in tears, inconsolable – despite my mother’s attempts to comfort me. I told her that I would never see him alive again. They weren’t the wisest words to say, but they were my truth.

They were also accurate. My brother called me at work, weeks later. December 18th, to be exact. He told me that our father had passed away in his sleep the night before.

And then I realized that dad was right. He was going to get us all home for Christmas.

I realized more than that. I learned that day, just how important it was to my father, that the family be together. The Davis family was a well-known family in the community. For our charitable work, our school, church and sports participation. For the awards we’d won in competition. For our scholastic achievements.

And if nothing else, for our family unity. A fusion that many confessed they wished they had in their respective homes. The Davis house was home for any and everyone who set foot through that door frame. Full of laughter, full of food, full of games, full of jukebox music, full of neighborhood movie nights and full of love.

Now, here we are, almost 25 years later and all I want is for my four boys young men to be here at the house for Christmas morning to wake up to the Christmas music that played, signaling that gift giving time had arrived. Two live with their girlfriends. In town, thankfully. And although I raised each of them with the understand that they should WANT to move out and start their own lives…

…I want them here, as much as humanly possible.

Because they’re my boys. They’re family.

We’ve adjusted to dinners for four, as opposed to the six who all once sat at the table every evening. I have fewer people to shout at to be quiet, even though the collective volume is just as high. I’ve had to learn to stop cooking for a large bunch, even though we still eat more than your standard, American four-and-a-half-member household with the two-and-a-half-bathroom. What the hell is half a person anyway? A Packers fan?

And there are less people wasting electricity at night. Funny how the utility bill remains the same.

I want them gone, but I want them here. I’m sure that’s not as confusing as it sounds because the majority of you probably echo the same mentality.

It’s because I love them more than life. It’s because my family defines me. Defines MY life.

Now I know why dad never wanted us to buy him anything or Christmas. Now I know why he sat there on Christmas mornings, all those years ago, just staring and smiling as we opened our presents in delight.

We wanted Christmas presents.
He wanted Christmas PRESENCE.

I get it now, father. I understand.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a safe time together. Thank you for always stopping by to read just a little more of what I have to say here at Kenny’s Camera, Cooking & Crazy Confessions.


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