I didn’t have any Christmas Eve plans this year, so when one of my fellow managers at work asked if I could close for him (working 4-1 instead of my normal 2-11) I said it would be no problem. I put on a festive red shirt (a vest, too, to showcase my new Doctor Who pocket watch) and came into the office with a smile. The workload was steady; although it was Christmas Eve, people still needed assistance with their cell phones. It’s just another night in the call center.
Later in the evening, an associate from another team came up to my desk. She is an older woman, in her sixties surely, and someone I have a casual, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ relationship with. She wished me a Merry Christmas and asked how I was doing, acknowledging that this was my first Christmas without my father. It took me a moment to respond; the shock of her question hit pretty hard. I knew that, of course. A year ago today, actually, we had our last meal together and he drove back to Pawhuska. I only saw him again briefly before he was gone.
No, the shock came from the remembrance. Someone who was only a passing acquaintance took a few moments to remember me and my loss. After searching my feelings for a moment, I smiled a genuine smile and said I was doing okay. Dad was never big into holidays, as I’ve mentioned before, so there aren’t any big traditions that are suddenly absent. It’s the little things I miss. The phone calls, the occasional email. I have moments where memories are so recent and thick that it nearly brings me to my knees, but those happen less and less often. They happen more often in grocery stores than anywhere else, which makes sense. But for the most part, Dad is someone who feels like he has been gone for a long time.
Tomorrow morning, I will get up. Prepare food. Make coffee. I will welcome my mother, my brother, and his fiance into my home and we will have Christmas together. Though Dad is gone, it feels normal. As much as my world came to a screeching halt this year, it is moving smoothly and has been for a while. My friend told me her father has been gone for seventeen years, and still has occasions where it hits as strong as it ever did. I imagine that’s how it’s going to be. I love my father, and cherish the good memories. Christmases past with him in his recliner, watching us open presents as he smiled a small, knowing smile.
Though my eyes well up a little, the smile that comes with them is deep and genuine. Merry Christmas, Dad.