Dad sharing his "special" egg nog with Shari
Eating Mom's lasagna on Christmas Eve
Our Christmas Eve traditions have stayed the same as long as I can remember.
Our day is ordered around being together as a family, eating, going to church, reading the Christmas story,opening presents, and reminiscing.
For years our Christmas Eve has looked basically the same.
For dinner, we have Mom's lasagna accompanied by meatballs and spare ribs cooked in the sauce. Almost as regular as the components of the meal was my Dad's overly dramatic praise of Mom's lasagna.
For treats we have Christmas cookies, shrimp, little smokies, and chestnuts. We'll have a couple versions of eggnog- the normal kind, and the alcoholic version my Dad concocted.
Some years we open presents before the Christmas Eve service, sometimes after. Before opening presents, I read the Christmas story. One of the blessings of this tradition is the day one of our children first read the story instead of me. The boys do their best to stay patient before getting their gifts as we always go oldest to youngest. In embellished fashion, Dad would rave about whatever gift we got him. Shari and I always have a spending limit for each other, and I always go way over it for her. Not because I'm some great husband, but because she deserves all the gifts I could give her and way more. She really likes surprises, so getting her gifts is fun.
The Christmas Eve service is a favorite of ours. I don't get to sit with my family, but I do enjoy looking at them sitting in the second row on the left as we sing the hymns and hear the Scripture read. When we do the candle lighting, I go to them first with my candle.
After the service, back at home, as we are all unwinding, Dad and I would drink a beer and eat some chestnuts. We all got a kick out of Dad and chestnuts. He was too cheap to pay for good ones so he'd buy the older ones. Without fail, half or more of the chestnuts would be rotten. He'd grumble about how you can't get good chestnuts. My mother would then remind him he got what he paid for. The beer covered the bad tasting chestnuts and we'd keep on eating just biting off the good part on the rotten ones.
I have never taken such days and occasions for granted, but it sort of feels like I have this year.
This year's dinner table had an empty seat. Dad is gone.
Mom's lasagna, meatballs, and spare ribs were as tasty as ever, but no embellished praise from Dad came forth. We opened gifts and enjoyed the generosity and surprises shared with each other, but no Dad sitting in one of the Lazy Boy's acting like the gift he just got would change his life. No egg nog this year. I'm not even sure what Dad used to put in the alcoholic variety. No chestnuts, too expensive (father like son) and it wouldn't be the same without Dad murmuring over the rotten ones. The service was beautiful and meaningful for sure, but no Dad sitting in the second pew anymore.
We were all a bit melancholy today, even the children. We all miss Pepa. At the same time, we can't imagine how much worse we would feel if it would always be like this. In this life the pain will grow duller each year, I suppose. But praise be to God for the life to come because of Christ!
So, as I finish this post I am drinking a Blue Moon in Dad's honor (he would be carrying on about my expensive taste in beer) and thinking of how much death sucks, how much I miss him, and how grateful I am for eternal life in Christ.
This pain is temporary, I know.