Holiday Memories: Last Christmas with father

I gazed out the window of the Carson City library, looking at the crystal clear blue sky, with snow capped mountains in the background, kissed by the newly fallen snow.

Christmas would soon be here. I could feel the chill in the air and eagerly waited for the warmth, music and joy of the Christmas season. It snowed heavily this morning, and now the sky had opened itself up to let us share in the joy of a winter day. What a stark contrast to the dreary days in New Jersey where it stays bleak for days, sometimes weeks on end.

My most haunting Christmas is the one I spent with my father in New Jersey in 1988. My plane landed at Newark Airport, going through dark, gray clouds, on a cold, dreary winter day. Little did I know that this would be the last Christmas I would ever spend with my father, and the last time I would ever see him alive.

My father looked pale, worn and thin during the four days I spent with him. It was as though he was struggling for survival. We had a wonderful Christmas at a relative's house, with turkey and ham, asparagus, mashed potatoes, hot buttered rolls, hot buttered rum, good wine, a sinfully rich chocolate cheesecake, and huge designer chocolate truffles for dessert. My father, who loved to eat good food when he was well, struggled to get the meal down, missing my mother dearly.

This was the first Christmas that my father spent without my mother in 47 years. I felt an emptiness in my father's heart. I could feel the void, the loneliness and the sorrow when I was there, a sensation I had never felt before from my father.

I felt my father's pain, and his realization that it was time to let go and join my mother. My father tenderly cared for my mother during the last years of her life, while she struggled with Parkinson's disease. We never discussed feelings, but my main regret is not telling him sooner how much I loved him and appreciated him, and how he always left my room open for me to return at any time, even though I moved to Nevada in 1980, awaiting my return.

My father died abruptly from a heart attack on Jan. 10, 1989, alone in the house, shortly after shoveling snow. I had a sinking feeling at Christmas that I would never see him alive again.

Life is precious and sometimes too short, and we never know at any time when we will have a chance to get closure and say a final goodbye to our loved ones. Let us take the time now during this Christmas season to express our feelings now.


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