But since my dad passed away in 2008, I get a little melancholy at holiday time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day...these were all special occasions with my dad and there is a void in my family without him. I miss him a great deal. As I thought of him the other day, I felt myself getting kinda misty-eyed. But then, a memory came to mind that caused me to laugh (literally) out loud.
Daddy was like a big kid. I guess that's where I get it from. My sixteen year old constantly asks me when I plan to grow up. I get my childlike energy, sense of humor and precociousness from my dad. Well into his older years, he would still make silly faces, do funny dances, and crack the most hilarious jokes.
He was fun-loving, and Christmas was one of his favorite holidays - not because of the joy of seeing his grandchildren happy, but because he was like a child himself, anxious to find out what gifts were waiting under the tree with his name on them.
Daddy also loved a good drink! Each Christmas Eve, he would show up at my house at around six or seven in the evening, with his pajamas and a bottle of vodka in tow. I would be there getting everything ready for the next day, and to celebrate with Daddy I would usually have a bottle of my drink of choice - Hennessy - and he and I would sip our drinks and listen to oldies while the kids got themselves ready for bed. Year after year (and hangover after hangover) I would ask myself why I ever tried to keep up with him. After all, Daddy was a professional drinker. Me? Not so much. I can handle my liquor in most situations. But when it comes to hanging with the big dogs like my father, I am no match! Still, year after year, I would try to keep up and I never succeeded. Not even once.
"Let's wake the kids up now!" he suggested. "It is officially Christmas, so let's open up the gifts now instead of waiting until the sun comes up."
I laughed, seeing right through him. This wasn't about "the kids". It was about Daddy being desperate to find out what I had gotten him. Even though I knew his true motives, I couldn't resist. So I went and woke up the kids to tell them that it was show time!
My first indication that I was drunker than I thought I was came when I stumbled a little on my way to my kids' rooms. I soldiered on, though, and woke them up and then returned to the living room. My father sat in his favorite chair while the kids gathered around the tree. I reached for the light switch on the wall behind the Christmas tree and that's when everything went down - literally.
Somehow, in my drunken stupor, I missed the light switch I was reaching for and felt myself falling toward the tree. Frantic, I grabbed at the air for something to hold me up. Aware that my family was watching me, my arms flailed around desperately and I tried to pull it together and stand up. Everything happened so fast. But the next thing I knew, I had fallen to my knees on top of the gifts with both arms wrapped around the Christmas tree. Pine needles were in my hair, the tree was shaking and my kids were in hysterics.
I refused to look at them. In shock, I stayed there with my arms hugging the tree for several long moments. Over the sound of my kids' laughter, I could hear my father cracking up. He was trying hard to compose himself so that he could say something, but the laughter had the best of him. Finally, his voice boomed, peppered with sarcasm.
"You think she's a little tipsy??"
The whole family erupted in laughter again. This time, I joined them as I slowly stood up and brushed myself off. I knew that it was my own fault for thinking I could ever be grown enough to drink with Daddy.
We opened the gifts at 3am that year, and I still remember the joy on everyone's faces. But the face that stands out the most in my memory is Daddy's - beaming while he opened up the Bible I bought for him, and the three suits complete with ties, socks, and pocket squares. But the best part of recalling that holiday memory was picturing my father's face as he laughed at me - his head in his hands, his eyes squeezed shut, his laughter wracking his body. Makes me smile even now as I write this.
Merry Christmas. If you are blessed to have your dad in your life, don't take him for granted. Have a holiday drink with him for me. I'd give anything to do the same with mine, just one more time.