The Christmas That Finally Happened

Our first Christmas together

Our first Christmas together, 60 years ago

Well, here it is.  And here it flies by.  My first Christmas without dad.

You always know this year would come. Some day.  I always wondered when that time finally came, how would I deal with it?  What do other people do?

First, I’ve always been an internalizer.  Maybe it’s all those years of radio where you walk in, you’re on the air, and it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life, you’re always having the greatest day of your life.  No one wants to listen to a complaining, unhappy morning guy.

Secondly, I always tend to think, and usually over-think things. Dad passed back in early August, just three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday.  That month seemed like a blur. Surreal. I’d find myself getting all teary-eyed in random moments.  Going through the grieving process in my own way.

Now, here we are, 4 months later, during my most favorite time of year.  After thinking and internalizing my brains out, I’m just going to share what I came up with.

Yes, dad is gone.  But he gave me years and years of memories, great memories, fun memories.  It would be a shame to toss those all aside so I could sit around and be sad and self-pitying while the world around me celebrates.  Funny how your brain works.  Part of me thinks, “Well, if you’re not sad, then you’re a callous person or you didn’t really care.”  So far from the truth.

One way I like to try to get a handle on things is to switch people around.  How would it be if I were the one gone and everyone else was still here?  I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for ruining anyone’s holiday season.  It made me realize that there was so much good to celebrate that dwelling on the end of a person’s life is, well, pointless.

It’s up to us how we feel.  Want to be sad? Sure, that’s easy. Or, focus on what that person gave you, the mannerisms you have because them, the catch phrases they wore out, the stories tucked away in that brain of yours.  Take that perspective for a test-drive and you just might find a happier way to get through the holidays.

“Get through”…like it’s a struggle going to parties, decorating, singing carols, exchanging gifts. I do everything I can to make sure this season doesn’t get away from me and despite my best efforts this year, I still have everything done…but it’s just going by way too fast.

So, I take a deep breath and reflect on those holidays gone by.  The years I woke up to a brand-new bike or a train set that dad had put on a giant sheet of plywood, painted it green with a blue painted like in the middle of it.  My first watch.  The smells coming out of mom’s kitchen when she went on a cookie-baking binge, resulting in cocoanut balls, peanut butter rolls and chow Mein noodle cookies. An Operation game.  Stockings hung on the chimney that said Brother or Sister on the side.  Going over to Grandma’s house to see their short aluminum artificial tree with the rotating multi-colored lights.

Then, when I became a parent, driving home late one Christmas Eve, seeing a plane fly in the distance and telling the kids, “Hey, look at that!  It’s Santa’s sleigh!  You can even see Rudolph’s nose flashing!  We better get home and get to bed!”  Reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my kids and now, reading it to my grandkids, either in person or on Skype.

Dad was a pretty easy-going guy.  He was all about getting along.  This year, it would be easy to focus on the fact that he’s not here.  But he is, in every way I think and everything I do. I haven’t been back home in Torrance for Christmas Day in decades, but it was always nice to hear him on the phone.  I guess that’s the part that will be missing this year.  But the rest will all be there. I’ve made it to another Christmas season and I’m going to make every minute of it count.

Dad would want it that way.  Merry Christmas to all.

Tim Hunter


2 thoughts on “The Christmas That Finally Happened

  1. Thanks for your post today, Tim. My mom died June 11th…first holidays without her….creating new memories and remembering fondly mom’s traditions….


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