Wednesday, December 21, 2005

As When I Was Young ...

When I was younger, my father used to take me Christmas shopping and out to dinner.

It was a big deal. I'd get dressed up and we'd go to a mall and I'd pick out strange gifts (one year I bought my brother Paul film - not with a camera, just film) and then dad and I would go to dinner at some swanky place.

I can't remember when that tradition stopped being a tradition. My last memory of Christmas shopping with my dad is of me lagging behind him, being disgruntled. Clearly, I was a teenager. Being disgruntled is what teenagers do.

These days, my dad takes the grandkids shopping for Christmas. It's a less-formal affair, but he takes them all individually, and they get to pick out presents for their family.

Yesterday, though, for the first time in a long time, I spent some time with my dad. Not in a hosptial, not in his house. Out in the world.

He called in the morning to ask if I could drive him to a doctor's appointment (he still hasn't been cleared by his doctor, post-surgery, to drive) if my mom didn't make it home from Christmas shopping in time.

As he had just scheduled the appointment, I had visions of my mother, nerves frazzled from the mad holiday dash at the mall, coming home only to have my father announce that he needed her to take him to the doctor.

So I told him that I would take him regardless, and that afterward, he could come back here and wrap her presents that I've been picking up for the past couple weeks.

When he got in the car, he announced that he'd also like to go to a couple stores, to pick up stocking stuffers for the kids and to buy a book for mom. "If you have time," he said. "And if you haven't had lunch, we can get something to eat."

Christmas shopping with my dad. At 36.

I wasn't dressed up, and we didn't go somewhere swanky (we went through McDonald's drive-thru and they gave us someone else's order), but it was cute to watch him browsing in the stores. Dad's not a shopper. I've started buying most of mom's gifts every year, Christmas and birthday (for Mother's Day, he's on his own). He says, "You know better than I do what she likes." I try to tell him that the point is that she's his wife, and that he should know her well enough to buy her gifts, but if he hasn't gotten a firm grasp on mom's taste in 44 years of marriage, I don't think it's going to happen now.

So I shop for him, and he wraps what I buy. (OK, some years I wrap it, too.)

We had our incorrect McDonald's snack and he wrapped mom's gifts as I boxed them. Dad, I'm sure I don't have to tell you, is not a package wrapper, either. But they look sweet. They look like him. They look real. Mom and I, neatness freaks that we are, cut paper to exactly the right size and crisply crease all the folds and fold all the edges and burnish the tape so it nearly disappears. Dad just wraps.

He put to-and-from tags on her packages - "To Mom, From Dad" - and I put them in my office closet until Christmas Eve.

And then I took him home.

Mom was at the stove, getting a jump on Christmas Eve dinner. Dad looked through the day's Christmas cards.

It was nice. I felt like a kid again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should go to church on Christmas Eve!
John 3:16

11:43 PM  

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