My father has been walking around the Bitterroot and Missoula valleys with his Santa’s hat since November 4. He loves Christmastime. Our home during the holidays used to smell of egg nog and evergreen. There was never a fake tree in our house. Then we didn’t live in the same house, or even the same state or country for a while.
During my late teens and early 20s (actually longer), I suffered from a truly epic case of self-righteousness and ceased all communication with my dad for three years; then my younger brother, Michael, whom I’ve always been very close with and who had been living with our mom, Dan (stepfather) and me in Texas, returned to California to live with our dad. It was the best thing for him but something was lost. Of course, I didn’t notice anything amiss until last year when I moved to Montana to be with my dad and Michael came to visit for five months.
I missed them. And that time together. The Spanish word for “miss” in this context is extrañar. Los extrañé. Coincidentally, if you were to say you “missed a flight” in Spanish, you’d use the word perder for miss. Perder means to lose something. I lost them. We lost time together.
Lost or broken relationships are a lot harder to get back than, say, a set of car keys, which, when I find them under a stack of magazines or laundry, makes me feel pretty awesome. Christmas—a time of giving—celebrates the birth of the greatest gift in the world. He was the gift. For me, Christmas isn’t about giving. It’s about receiving the only gift that counts: Jesus. That gift comes with, among other things, restoration of things and people lost.
What I got back is nothing short of miraculous. Our dad, Michael and I were like children—and we still are, to be quite honest—during this five-month period. We played Settlers of Cataan nearly every Sunday evening (I won nine times!). We cooked dinner every night and ate at the table together. We cleaned up together, watched movies and TV together, floated the Bitterroot River together. We went to town together, we worked around my dad’s property together. All together. Just as I imagined we would have done had I not been such a little (probably huge) brat.
With such gratitude—never will I be able to say it or give it enough to God—and a humble heart, which I pray will be made humbler each day, I receive the gift. I receive Jesus Christ.