When I was twelve years old, all I wanted for Christmas was a basketball. Had I understood more about life, what I wanted would have been my daddy with us at Christmas.
It was 1954 and my dad was in the Veterans hospital in Memphis, Tennessee dying with lung cancer. I only knew he was in the hospital, not that he was dying. Mom made trips back and forth to be with him and to try to take care of the three children who were still at home. My brothers, Donald and Milton, and I put up the tree that had been cut on our uncle’s farm. We surprised Mom when she came home and found all the Christmas decorating done.
Mom surprised us the next day when we came home from school. She had been making Christmas candy and cookies all day and the house smelled like Christmas. You know that smell, cinnamon, cloves, evergreens, apples, and oranges all combined to make that unique smell that we associate with this one time of the year. Yes, and throw a little chocolate in there too! A house with a Mom in it is a different thing from an empty house or one with just kids, even if those kids are 12, 15, and 17 years old.
After supper that night, Mom told us what the doctors had told her. There was nothing else to be done for Dad. He simply wasn’t going to make it through this. None of us kids had any inkling what that really meant. We did not even think of how this would mean there would be no income. I’m sure Mom thought of that but it never crossed our little brains that Mom would struggle from this day forward to feed and clothe us kids with only a Social Security stipend and what she could earn sewing for others or cleaning windows or whatever odd job could be had in our town of four-hundred.
Yet, somewhere in the chaos that must have been Mom’s life at that point, she found time and energy to see that her kids had a Christmas.
So not even the approaching death of a beloved husband and father could hold back Christmas. It arrived right on time and there was a basketball under the tree from Dad to me. The last gift of a daddy to his baby girl.
Thank you, Mom.