Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas I Remember Best

I wrote this for a Deseret News contest a number of years ago, and it wasn't chosen.  I understood why, but figured, I could always publish it myself, if for no other reason, than for myself.  I hope you'll enjoy.

            The Christmas I remember best was the Christmas of 1975.  I had just turned 10 years old and was attending the fourth grade in elementary school.  My father, Robert M. Christensen, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system a few months earlier.   For most of his career, Dad’s occupation had been in retailing and Christmas had historically been his busiest time of the year.  In addition to his work, he had served what would have been my ten years, in my church’s Stake Presidency, first as a counselor and later as Stake President.  It was a rare moment for me to have him home for any extended period of time and even more rare to see him unable to do hard physical labor.
            In 1975, Hodgkin’s disease only had about a 30% cure rate, but in my young and simple mind, I had accepted the fact my father would be ill, but never did I have the thought that he would die.  However as the months moved on, he became increasingly ill and the hospital stays seem to increase.  I missed the touch of his big soft hands and the little moments where he made me feel like I was his only concern in the world.  As the first part of December came around it was unclear when he would come home from the hospital. Fortunately, before Christmas Dad was allowed to come home to spend time with our family.  He had a difficult time getting up and moving very far and due to his weakened state, my family placed him in his own bedroom.  Being young and a very heavy sleeper, my parents decided to have me sleep on a bed in the same room with my Dad.  I could help him if needed, but also because I could sleep through the rest of the night due to his frequent need to get up and down.
            Early Christmas morning of 1975, my father once again was having a sleepless night.  My mother, Verda Mae Christensen was busy helping Santa place the gifts and as a young boy I lay awake anxiously wondering what it was that Santa would bring.  I could tell my dad was awake and started talking to him.  It was one of those rare moments you wish would go on forever and look back and would give nearly anything to have it again.  I really can’t remember much of what was said, but I knew he loved me and wanted me to be happy.  I don’t think I appreciated how much pain he endured and the myriad of thoughts you deal with as you realize your time on this earth will be drawing to a close.  My mother stopped her activity for a moment to go use the bathroom, so my father released me from our conversation and encouraged me to go check out the Christmas spoils in anticipation of Christmas morning.  Christmas came and went and about three weeks later, my dad passed away letting go of the physical strain of life and leaving a pretty empty void in my own.
            Thirty years later, I will now be 40 years old this Christmas.  While I can’t remember much about the presents received during Christmas of 1975, I remember the love and time of one who loved me.  My parents have now both passed away, and as we put up the Christmas Tree this year in the home in which I grew up, which is now my own, I lay on the floor adjusting the Christmas tree in hopes of getting it to stand straight.  As I looked across the floor, there lay my two daughters, Jessica and Sarah smiling at me, reminding me that the greatest gift of Christmas was there lying under our tree.  They represent many of my hopes and dreams and remind me of the good things of this life. And maybe just maybe, I can share with them the same gift my dad gave me, his love and his time. 

Picture from a family trip, being held by my Dad, Robert Christensen
With my daughters, Jessica & Sarah at the gravesite of my father

1 comment:

  1. Carlton <3 What a Sweet post <3 I Loved your Mom and Dad too. I remember times with your Dad going to the Hog Farm in the family Station wagon and getting tail gate rides from your Dad. He was the kindest man and I remember his gentle smile and tender ways. I LOVED the photos attached. So sweet! May those wonderful memories fill your heart until you will all be together again. I know that your parents are watching over you and are so proud of the good man you are and the great family you have. <3 Jalyne Fidler