Friday, December 23, 2011

My dad's best gift ever.

My dad's birthday falls just three day's away from Christmas. Some would think that this would have been like winning the lottery as a kid. A stack of presents for your birthday, then a new stack of presents for Christmas. But somehow that was not the case, and his birthday got pushed aside for holiday parties and events. One year, all he wanted for Christmas was a shotgun -- but his dad told him that there was just not going to happen. Times were tough. My dad understood, but so bad did he want that shotgun. Christmas morning, at 1am, he and his brother Dave snuck upstairs to the living room to see what they had each gotten for Christmas. Days before they had tested each step leading from the basement to the upstairs for squeaks, and had memorized each and ever one. So, early Christmas morning they snuck up to the kitchen without a sound. Then low-crawled to the entry of the living room, and opened the pocket door -- taking great care not to slide it too fast. When they were at last next to the gifts, Dave could not believe his eyes. A sleeping bag! Just what he wanted. He opened it up right then and there and got inside. My dad was standing next to him looking the opposite way, toward his own gift. There, tucked between the cushions in the couch with a ribbon tied around it, was not a shotgun, but a rifle. Something magical happened in that living room, at just after 1am in the morning, as my dad got much more than he ever thought possible. For a boy, this was the gift of all gifts. A rifle.My dad sat and stared at that gun, shocked and beyond any sort of emotion that he had ever felt. It took him minutes to fully comprehend the gift, the sacrifice, and the love from his dad. There was of course no plan for going back down the squeaky stairs, the boys had only memorized how to get to the family room, and not back to their bedrooms. So, they spend the night squished in Dave's new sleeping bag. When the morning light filled the living room, my dad tried the best he could to show his father the same emotion he had felt hours ago when he first saw the rifle, trying to act like it was the first time he had seen it. But, that kind of emotion is hard to re-do. My dad still has that rifle, and listening to him tell the story last night on his 65th birthday brought all of us kids (and him) to tears. He only wishes...he had waited so his dad could have seen his face that Christmas day all those years ago...the day he got the best Christmas/birthday gift ever.

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