christmas memory

We always had a large Christmas tree . My father loved to decorate it , and I think  all of us kids helped too . There were colorful bulbs and glass birds with feathered tails , and tinsel . On the top went , as I remember , an ornate glass orb-and-star decoration . I made a tin-foil reindeer when I was in , maybe , third grade , and that went onto the tree , too . I still have that thing and Ada and I put it up on our trees .BELLS

We had a colorful neighbor when I was a kid , Lance Kaufman . To us kids he was Mr. Kaufman . Lance did construction work now and again and always had his eyes and ears open to what was happening in the neighborhood . During at least one Christmas season he picked up a few extra bucks working at a local Christmas tree lot .

Lance liked my dad , and so he brought him a Christmas tree one night after the Christmas tree lot had shut down for the night . It was a good tree , as I remember . My dad tried to ask how much the tree cost as Lance lowered the tailgate and pulled the beautiful tree out of the bed of his beat-up old red pickup truck . My dad insisted on paying whatever the tree cost , but Lance refused to take any payment .

Well , maybe you had to know Lance , and maybe you had to know my dad . Let’s just say that my dad was intensely and unquestionably and scrupulously honest . I remember my mother saying that if Dad found a pencil on the ground he’d be sure to ask around if anyone had lost it . He didn’t like the thought of claiming something that wasn’t his . Lance , on the other hand , was more of a pragmatist , I guess you could say .

It was fairly clear that Lance had simply absconded with one of the trees at the end of his shift at the tree lot . No one will ever know for sure . It was clear that Dad thought that at the time .

So , what to do ?

Lance just smiled. ” It’ll be my Christmas present ,” he might have said . My dad must have struggled with the moral quandary . Here was a good neighbor offering a present of a tree , albeit most likely a hot tree .

I’ve decided not to tell you the end of this story . Let me simply say that nobody is perfect .

After  my dad had his heart attack a few years later , and died suddenly , Lance walked over to our front lawn when he saw me walking from my car toward the house . He was crying uncontrollably  . ” It should have been me , ” he said through his tears .

Lance  had a growing cancer at the time . The cancerous growth on his neck was apparent .  He lived for a few more years , but with a lot of suffering .

My mother called me to tell me the news the day Lance died . I was in my apartment near UCLA at the time , when  I was finishing up my BA.  I completely broke down and cried and cried all of the tears for Dad that I hadn’t been able  to cry at the time that he had died .

My college roommate walked in and saw me . He was shocked and wanted to know what it was all about . Easy to understand , but hard to explain . I told him that I was crying because my father died . He knew it had been years since my father had died , so he might have considered me something of a nut case .

And , now , here it is Christmas and I’m thinking about all of this old stuff and remembering how much my father loved Christmas . christmas tree 1


Filed under humor

7 responses to “christmas memory

  1. This is turning out to be a very good season, isn’t it, Dan?!!

  2. These people sneak into our minds at the times of their choosing, not ours. The memory of my father creeps in from time to time, and he’s been gone for over 30 years.

  3. Sometimes a tiny spark can ignite a huge forest fire of memories. Some good, some bad. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you and your family have a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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