The trials and tribulations of a middle-aged PACS consultant,
father, and garage sale junkie as he engages in his
never-ending search for sanity in an insane world.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Last Christmas

Nearly every parent dreads the time when Christmas is no longer magical for their children. For me it happened maybe 6-7 years ago. Thanks largely to the Internet that Al Gore created by the tween years there was a fairly high degree of skepticism about Santa. By age 13 or 14 it was assumed that they knew that Santa Claus was indeed much different than the man in the red suit they saw at the malls or the Santa I played for the Cub Scouts and for his classmates in elementary school using an incredible Santa suit my ex made for me (neither son knew it was me either- that’s how good the suit was). The suit still fits, but now I don’t need quite as much padding as I did then…

This is the last year I will have my kids as kids. While they will always be my kids I could never get over my mom and dad calling my brother and I "kids" well into our 30’s- but it’s different. Nick will be home one more year attending community college, maybe longer depending on where he finishes his last two years of college, and Matt can pretty much go anywhere he wants. His first choice college is in Tennessee but he is also being pragmatic and looking at a school in Tampa as well. With Bright Futures, the Florida Pre-Paid College Fund I’ve been paying into since they were both 6, and scholarships he will no doubt get, he will be like his brother actually getting paid to go to college instead of owing the equivalent of a small town’s annual income when he gets out. But where he goes is his choice, not mine. Both young men are just that- young men- and have good heads on their shoulders. They are super smart, practical, and handsome to boot. Basically they have the world by the balls.

Nick works at the Holy Grail for Mac-aholics as an Apple store employee and did very well his first quarter in college, unlike his father whose 0.923 his first quarter in college was reflective of a belief that college was about women and alcohol and not academics. Going to an all boys Catholic High school tends to do that to you though so…That said, I’ve forgiven myself after so many years….And Matt- my IB student with a 4.3 GPA and 33 on the ACT- he has the entire world pursuing him and rightfully so….I am incredible proud of both boys…

So it’s Christmas Day. I looked over at the clock 6 a.m., 7 a.m. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse (or Elvis the Wonder Beagle either but all he does is sleep anyway so…). I miss the days when the kids would tip toe into our rooms at 5 a.m. and ask if we were up (we were now) and then proclaim that Santa had come while they were sleeping…of cursing the translator of instructions from Chinese to what they thought resembled Ing-rish at 3 a.m...of figuring out how something went together…of finding bigger and better hiding spots…of wrapping and wrapping and wrapping… and of course of last minute gifts that were impossible to find a day or two before Christmas- the ones you go to the ends of the Earth to find…like a streetlight….yes, a streetlight… Don’t ask, but I still have it in my closet…

This year I have to realize that my babies aren’t babies anymore but young men who are well on their well to becoming productive members of society, albeit capitalists for sure. Yes, giving them cash is so much easier and practical than finding exactly what they wanted ....but there was also a special joy in finding that one special gift they wanted…I smile every time I see the movie “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie gets his Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with the compass in the stock. Yes, Ralphie is finally happy but the pride his father had watching him open it resonates much more with me than anything else.

We had so many Christmases like that. After my ex and I divorced Christmas were still special but held at two houses not just one…and we always had dinner together as a family just like we will again tonight even though she has been remarried now for a few years. Thankfully her husband has welcomed me with open arms realizing it’s not about us- it never was about us- but about the kids…. and that we really do have some really great kids…

So tonight we’ll have dinner, maybe watch Billy Murray in “Scrooged” or the “Jeff Dunham Very Christmas Special” or maybe even “A Christmas Story” again and then I’ll hug them both goodnight. But this year’s hug will be more than just saying goodnight. Instead it’s saying goodbye to the end of an era that was as important for me as it was them.

Next year Matt hits 18 and technically my work is done….or so I’m told. Hopefully I’ll have the same relationship with Matt as an independent adult that I now enjoy with Nick- letting his make his own decisions for sure but still pinging the old man every now and then for his opinion. And once, maybe once, just for old times sake, I’ll be lucky enough to have them ask me for something truly unique and different- that one Christmas gift that is so hard to find- so I can search high and low, find it for them and rekindle the joy I had when my babies were still babies and Christmas was a magical time for all.

Merry Christmas to you and yours…His love never ends….

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