Take the Damn Christmas Cards!

Take the Damn Christmas Cards!

The Holidays are always an emotional time for me. Our family always used to make the trip to Michigan to see my parents for Christmas. Now that both of my parents have passed, I have been reflecting on those trips back home and some big takeaways I have acquired through those visits. 


A few years back, I flew home to see my dad. My mom had already passed and every return home was a bittersweet reminder of the moments we all shared together. On top of that, seeing my dad living alone stirred up a complex mix of emotions - sadness for his solitude, nervousness about his well-being, anxiety about the future, frustration at times, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having him in my life. 


On each trip home, my dad would try to "unload" things on me while I almost always declined defiantly (“No I don't want your stack of unused Christmas cards"!). I had a good excuse...I was flying home and couldn’t fit these items in my suitcase. During this particular visit, my dad asked if I would go through all the boxes of photos, take what I wanted, and throw some away. I asked him why he was in such a hurry to get rid of so much...especially mementos like photographs. He told me that he's 85 and doesn’t want to leave all of these things for us to deal with after he dies. He said that his mom, my grandmother, was more afraid of what would happen to all her possessions after she died than death itself. So I spent a few hours with my Dad going through box after box of old photos, making piles for each of his kids, reminiscing as we looked through them.


My sister always made it a point to meet me at our dads house whenever I traveled back home, and this time was no exception. She arrived the following day and my dad did what he does and asked her if she wanted to take an old leather coat of my mom’s and she said “Sure, I'll try it on later". He asked her if she wanted some old coats he had in the basement and she said “Yes! I'm sure the boys could use them". He asked her if she wanted the damn stack of Christmas cards I passed on just the day before and she graciously accepted them and packed them away.


Later that night, after my Dad went to bed I asked my sister “What the hell are you going to do with all this stuff? You can't possibly use all of it". My sister shared with me that sometimes she will take it home and actually use it but most of the time she will just donate it. The Christmas cards she will just toss in the recycled bin at home. She said it was important to him that he felt these things he has collected will go to good use...that we will actually use them and put them to good use. Ok, and I am the one who had been working on my self-development for years?!


So that is my inspiration for the week. My sister’s kindness, sensitivity, and understanding that as we age, the items we collect become a part of who we are. She knew that it was important to my dad to feel like he was giving, big or small. When I look back on that visit now, I remember the warmth and love that surrounded us, the shared stories, and the understanding that these items weren't just things - they were tokens of our dad's generosity and a reminder of his enduring love. If you are lucky enough to still visit your parents this Holiday season, accept any offerings with gratitude...even if it means you will need to accept an old suitcase in order to bring it all back home;)

Happy Holiday Friends!

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