Last Christmas season was a very tough on for me. Besides being the first Christmas dealing with my pulmonary disease unknowns, it was also the last Christmas season that we got to spend with my Dad.
On Nov. 30th, I bought my father a Christmas snow globe to place by his chair for a little holiday spirit.(That’s it to the left). I had picked it up from a Rite Aid on impulse while picking up other items. We did not do a lot of decorating at the apartment because Dad was afraid of damaging the windows or walls hanging lights.
After watching a Sixers game with him, I gave Dad his night pills and got him to go in to sleep for the night. Little did I know that he would bring himself back out around 11 PM to do something that he wasn’t supposed to do: he decided that he had to put clothes in the dryer that night. Our dryer had a lint screen that had a little “bump” to keep it in place, but also required a good tug to remove it to clean it. He gave it that stubborn tug and lost balance, falling backwards and slamming his head into a door jam, creating a huge lump.
He still had consciousness, and was only worried about a quarter that he had dropped. It fell by the door to my bedroom. He used the quarter to scratch his lottery tickets that he always dreamed he would win big on. I left the quarter right where he dropped it and it was the last thing that was removed from the apartment when I moved Tommy and myself out to my sisters.
I drove my Dad to the hospital while my brother Joe took my brother Tommy to my sisters and then joined me at the hospital. On the way to the hospital, I put B-101 on the radio, since they were playing Christmas songs. My dad sang along the entire 20 minute ride to Lankenau Hospital’s emergency room.
My dad never returned home. He spent the entire Christmas season in the hospital in increasingly failing condition. He passed 7 weeks later.
So, with your indulgence, I’d like to share some of my Father’s Christmas favorites with you. Dad was a real sentimentalist for the holidays.
First of all, he started looking for Christmas films on TV the beginning of October, really annoyed that he had to wait. He loved the classics, but ever since my mother passed in 1994, he especially loved to watch holiday films that either reminded him of her or gave him a good cry of remembrance for her.
He loved SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE because Tom Hank’s character shared the same feeling of loss that my Dad did. While not necessarily a Christmas film, the film does have a lot of action set during the holiday season.
He also loved a TV film starring ED ASNER AND MAUREEN STAPLETON called “THE GATHERING” . This was the story of a family patriarch whose family is falling apart. He is separated from his wife, his kids are strangers, and one has run to Canada as a draft-dodger. When he is confronted with his own mortality and is told he does not have long to live, he decides that he needs to get his entire family back together for one last Christmas.
Another favorite was a film called “ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS”. This is a “Wonderful Life” style story of hopelessness and redemption, complete with Harry Dean Stanton as an harmonica playing angel. The story is about a woman who has lost the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of living each day. She struggles to feed and provide for her family in a depressed town. An accident that might have been set in motion by an small action earlier leads to the death of her husband and her descent into “George Bailey” territory.
And my dad loved his Christmas songs. They usually had a traditional or country flavor and you better not fool around with the arrangements. He also loved classical and religious carols, because they reminded him of my mother, who had a tremendous operatic voice. You knew that he liked it when you heard him quietly singing along.
His big music thrill over the holidays was always the Andre Rieu holiday concerts on PBS. Andre Rieu is a new style classicist who plays violin and leads a Viennese orchestra. I took my dad to see him a couple of times.
He also loved his country Christmas songs. Eddy Arnold was one of his favorites.
And he loved the Ave Maria, because my mother could sing the heavens out of it.
Merry Christmas, Dad!