Holiday Memories: Daughter continues father’s special Christmas gift
I must have been nine or 10 years old the year I got my first bicycle. I remember I got that bike the year my dad won a $1,200 Keno ticket – we had a good Christmas that year.
The strange thing was that all my best friends in our neighborhood got bikes that year, too. There were five of us, all girls, that grew up together. I remember it was a warm Christmas, because we were all out trying to ride our bikes that Christmas morning.
What I didn’t know was how it may have influenced my dad as he watched all of us out in the street trying to learn how to ride those new bikes. Little did I know it may have started a tradition that is continuing to this day.
You see, the December before my father passed away, he was bound to a wheelchair. I made a point to visit him every morning and evening during the week when I was working, and on the weekends I would take him grocery shopping on Saturday and have him at our home for dinner on Sunday.
One Saturday before Christmas, Dad called me early and said he had to go to Walmart instead of his usual trip to the grocery store. Well, you can imagine that getting him into my small car with the wheelchair and shopping at Walmart during the Christmas season on the weekend was not something I really wanted to do. In fact, I did my best to talk him out of taking that trip because of the hassle and the crowds, but Dad insisted.
I rolled my eyes as we got into the car, wheelchair and all. We went to Walmart, and I got him unloaded and into the store through the throng of shoppers.
“Now where do you want to go?” I asked.
He said, “Get me the manager.”
I couldn’t imagine why he wanted to talk to the manager, but I was finally able to round up an assistant manager. Dad had me wheel him down to the toy section of the store with the assistant manager in tow. Dad looked up at that assistant manager and said, “I’m going to buy a girl’s bike and a boy’s bike, and I want a 10 percent discount.”
The assistant manager was hesitant, and I just stood there slack-jawed. Dad finally won out, and we got the bikes – with the discount.
Back in the parking lot, I managed to get Dad, the wheelchair and two bikes in boxes into my car.
I asked Dad what was next. He said, “Take me to the fire department.”
“What?” I said.
“Just take me to the fire department,” he insisted.
So, off to the Carson City Fire Department we went. By this time, I was thinking that Dad was losing his mind.
When we got there, I unloaded the wheelchair, got Dad all settled in and wheeled him in. It was about noon, as I remember all the firemen were sitting down to lunch. When I rolled Dad in, he saw a fireman he knew and told him there were two bikes in my car. Dad asked him to assemble them and give them to two Carson City kids who deserved them. At that time, they were taking donations for the Toys for Tots program.
I had never been so proud of my father in my life. When we got back in the car, I asked Dad when he had started to do this. He told me that he had donated two bikes every year since I had left home in 1970. To say the least, it made me stop and think how selfish I had been when Dad had asked me to help him run this errand.
The next year, 1999, Dad passed away in October and, in December, I asked my husband if we could go to Walmart. My husband had the same roll-of-the-eyes reaction that I had the year before when Dad wanted to go to Walmart. Then it dawned on him why I wanted to go.
We walked in and bought two bikes (assembled) and took them to the Carson City Fire Department. We wheeled them in and told the receptionist that they were donated in remembrance of my father, Wayne Schumacher, and to please give them to a little boy and girl that would appreciate them.
My husband I walked out of there remembering the generosity of the man that was the best father a girl could ever have, and he had taught me the real meaning of Christmas. When we left, we both had tears running down our cheeks. We didn’t have to say a word to each other, and we held hands all the way home.
We have been very fortunate and have been able to continue this tradition every year since Dad passed away – 10 years this Christmas. Every year I have the same feeling I had the very first time I helped my father with his contribution to the kids of Carson City.
This year may be a bit tougher, as I was a victim of the unemployment fiasco, but we have already put the money aside for two bicycles for Christmas.
Merry Christmas Carson City – it’s about the giving.
• Lynda Schumacher Gotelli lives in Carson City.