I was the only child of Virgil (41) and Cleo (40) when I was born. What a surprise for them!
Everyone in our families was afraid I'd be horribly spoiled. I wasn't really, but I do have a Christmas memory that is cringe-worthy.
We didn't have a TV when I was growing up. I used to go to Mrs. Martin's house, which was behind 'Martin's Hardware Store' that her husband owned and ran to watch TV. It was only a vacant lot away and Mrs. Martin was pretty much wheelchair bound and enjoyed my company. (This was a really small town--400 people tops--so everyone knew who had a TV and who didn't.)
Then one Christmas when I was 12 or so, my father (who was a frugal man with a capital F--like this, he bought a new black Ford every 3 years with money he'd saved over the three years...for cash. My father was so 'frugal' that when he tried to get a credit card in his 60's, it was difficult because he always paid cash and had no credit record. I was a college student by then and got a credit card in the mail every few weeks. My parents also bought the only house they ever owned--I grew up in a rented apartment in a part of the world where everyone either lived in a house they owned or a house the coal company owned--they bought that house in Princeton with cash.)
Ok, that was the longest and most wandering aside I've probably ever written and I lost the gist of what I wanted to say, so let me start over.
Then one Christmas when I was 12 or so, my father decided to buy a TV for me for Christmas. For him to part with that much money for something he considered frivolous was an incredible gift and commitment to me. When I got up on Christmas morning and went into the living room and saw it, the first words out of my mouth were, "It's not as big as Mrs. Martin's TV."
So my father drove to Adrian Vance's house, the man who owned the appliance store in Anawalt and got him to come out on Christmas morning to exchange the TV my father had bought for one that was as big as Mrs. Martin's. On Christmas day he did that because his 12 year old son was an ingrate of an asshole.
And he never once said something snarky like, "is this big enough, asshole?"
He just did it, for me.
If I could speak to my father, dead over 30 years now, I would tell him I was an awful and ungrateful son on that Christmas morning and everyone in our families had been right--they had spoiled me horribly and I was an asshole back then, 52 years ago now.
And the second thing I would tell him is that I hope and pray I turned out better than I might have, given the 12 year old I was. I would tell him that why I turned out better than I was at 12 and complained about a gift of love that wasn't big enough was because he and my mother taught me about gratefulness and wonder and joy in ways they never imagined. In ways they never knew.
I'd want to tell him that his asshole son of 12 became a person of compassion and understanding and love--because he showed me all those things even when I didn't deserve them.
That's what I'd like to say to my Dad this Christmas Eve.
Thank you for understanding what an asshole a 12 year old can be and never holding it against him. I think that made me who I am and have been.
And the memory of that Christmas makes me cringe and regret and almost weep.
Unconditional love is so difficult, so hard. and such a gift to 12 year old's when they look back on it and cringe.
I love you, Daddy, wherever you are. Merry Christmas.....
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