MOM AND I pulled our artificial Christmas tree out of the box together, the silver pine branches bending into shape—a popular look back in 1970. “I hope the lights all work,” Mom said. As if the tree itself wasn’t shiny enough.
I shrugged. The truth was I didn’t care if we even had a tree when I woke up tomorrow. It was our first Christmas without my father. My heart was too heavy to enjoy anything.
“Hang some of those icicles,” Mom said, pointing to the open box.
I hooked a glittering ornament and reached for a branch. The movement made my head, which had been aching since dinner, feel worse. How I wished I was decorating the tree we had the year before, when I was 13. The one Dad and I had picked out together. That tree had been perfect, like everything about that Christmas.
Throughout my childhood, my father was in and out of the hospital with leukemia. My grown-up brother and sisters had memories of him when he was younger and energetic. The Dad I adored was almost always exhausted.
Until suddenly, like a miracle, his illness went into remission. Dad didn’t take any of it for granted and made the most of every good day he had. What a blessing that it had happened just in time for Christmas.
“Are you thinking about the tree that we had last year?” Mom said.
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