Author Pearl Whithead has fond memories of Christmas when her father was still alive. Here she reflects on one in particular, as she remembers how they prepared for Christmas together one year and how you're never too old to be excited!
Soon after I retired, my father moved across the country to live close to me so that I could care for him. He had a small house in the same village as I and was a big part of my life in his last years. Caring for him was not difficult and we shared a lot of good times together until he died just before his 101st birthday. Approaching Christmas brings back fond memories.
The beginning of December and Dad is talking about presents and Christmas cards. He doesn’t want any for himself, apparently, but is anxious to give presents to all family members, all eighteen of us! As he is over ninety and lives alone in the same village as I do, I am allocated the task of choosing and buying them for him. He is very excited, for when he was one of eight children in a poor family he had never been given a present at Christmas.
Fortunately I have finished my own Christmas shopping and I can devote the next few weeks to helping Dad. Each time I return from the shops with a bag full of presents he can’t wait to see what I have bought. All purchases are inspected and played with where possible, then taken up to the spare bedroom to be examined each time he goes upstairs, I suspect. Toys for the younger members of the family are particularly appealing. He keeps a list of all the family members and crosses them off as each one is bought a gift.
"He is now counting off the days when all the family will be at my house for Christmas day."
As I see him every day, I don’t always have anything to show him. On these days I help him to compile his Christmas card list. It consists of a fair number of people from his past that I am not aware of and we add the new friends he has made in the few years he has been living nearby. There is somewhere a list he compiled last year but unfortunately neither of us can locate it! This will inevitably involve a few last minute postings or running around, as cards from the forgotten people drop through his letterbox.
Once the cards have been bought, Dad starts to write them, just two or three each day until they are all done. Buying postage stamps is quite stressful when he realises the price of stamps! I am then hijacked into delivering a fair number of them on foot.
Next comes the wrapping. I manage the paper, he manages the sellotape, which sometimes seems to have a will of its own. He writes all the labels and we attempt to put the right labels on the right parcels whilst having a first sample or two from one of his Christmas bottles of wine!
He is now counting off the days when all the family will be at my house for Christmas day. Only the children can be more excited than Dad!