The Coolest Gift

Like you, I received numerous Christmas gifts this year. Some, I’ll remember for a while. Others will fall into the abyss of memories that, frankly, my brain doesn’t have room for anymore.

Oh, it’s not like those forgettable gifts aren’t appreciated, they are. And I’m sure I’ve passed along my share of forgettable gifts over the years.

Seriously, think about your Christmas back in 2020–how many of those gifts you received that year could you actually name? Then how about 2019? See what I mean?

That further illustrates the point that it really is the sentiment behind the gift, not the gift itself. Regardless of what’s on the other side of that wrapping paper, someone cared (or felt obligated) enough to cough up a couple of bucks, use some wrapping paper from Dollar Tree and do their part to assure you have a Merry Christmas…..or Happy Hannukah….or Krazy Kwanza, or whatever I’m supposed to say.

One of the gifts I’ll treasure most this year actually came on Sunday, the day after Christmas. In Seattle, we received 6-inches of snow, missing the big day by 24 hours….but, with that, it allowed everyone to get their Christmas travels in, then go home before we were buried.

The gift I’m referring to was a phone call. From an old high school buddy I hadn’t talked with in years and probably only a handful of times since we both graduated from Torrance High School in 1973. (Go Tartars)

Mark told me he was compelled to give me a call after he returned from celebrating Christmas in a nearby state at his son’s house. He had arrived back home in Iowa to find the card my wife and I had sent him and he was touched. Not necessarily because of the typical year-end recap that appears in our annual letter, but because it was addressed to Mark and Trisha, his wife.

He felt he should call and let me know that Tricia had passed back in early November. While visiting his folks in California, he contracted COVID and not knowing it, returned home to Iowa and brought the pandemic home. He fought his way through, but then Tricia caught it and in a very short amount of time, it claimed her life.

Mark told me how he and Trisha had been talking about how they would celebrate their upcoming wedding anniversary. That would have been number 47. Mark kept telling me how blessed he had been in his life to have her that many years. But it’s just the sudden ending that was really a shock, and still is.

Mark was a very talented saxophone player and one of the fearsome foursome of buddies I had during my Torrance High School days. There was Guy, Tank, Mark and yours truly, who during my high school years, acquired the nickname “Tab” after the actor. That’s the name that went on my letterman’s jacket. It’s still there.

Any guesses who the four screwballs were in the front row?

While three of us experienced many a relationship during those formative years, it was just a couple of years out of high school that Mark became the first of us to get married. While those days softly blur, I can still remember Trisha being so sweet, so tolerant.

Mark can come off pretty strong and say some things that might tick some people off if you didn’t know the real Mark. That was just his style and it still cracks me up to this day.

I could hear in his voice the hurt and caring as he spoke of Trisha’s passing. I can’t even imagine having a lifetime of plans suddenly yanked out from under you as you finally reach those so-called “Golden Years.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, Mark asked that I go upstairs and give my wife, Victoria, a big old hug for him. “You just don’t know how long you’ve got together.”

And you don’t.  But life is a continuous balancing act. You don’t sell the house and bet it all on 31-black and see what happens, nor do you sit at home and start every sentence with, “You know, someday…..”

I know that after my chat with Mark, I need to get a little bit better about my life balancing. Sounds like a New Year’s resolution to me!

And thanks for the gift I’ll be remembering for a while, Mark.

Here’s to a happy 2022, everyone!

Tim Hunter

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