My dad had a hard childhood and life, and because he never was given love, he didn't know how to give it. There were nine of us kids, and I'm sure each of us has our own scars to carry. The one Christmas that I will never forget was the time my sisters and I were decorating Christmas cookies. We were laughing, and competing to see who could produce the most beautiful cookie. And then my dad came in and hollered at us for making a mess, and sent us to our rooms.
After I got married and moved away, we came home for Christmas every year to visit Mom and Dad. One year I gave my dad a gift that I thought he would really love, and....when he opened it he became very angry. He yelled that he didn't want it, and I ran out of the house in tears. My husband drove me around town to see the Christmas lights, hoping that would cheer me up. If I remember correctly...it didn't.
Ever since my kids were old enough to decorate Christmas cookies, I have gone overboard to make each and every Christmas memory a happy one. I buy every color of sugar there is, and loads of sprinkles and glitter. We end up with a HUGE mess in the kitchen...and I happily clean it up later on. (One of the pages of 'The King's Kids' is about this very memory).
A few years ago, I went to visit my dad in the nursing home, stopping as always at the gift shop first to buy him a molasses cookie (those were his favorite). I wasn't actually allowed to give him any sweets, because he was a diabetic. But day after day he would sit in his tiny, joyless room, with nothing to look forward to, so the cookies were our little secret.
One day right after handing him his cookie, the nurse walked in the room! I quickly grabbed the cookie out of his mouth and threw it across the room, which left him looking quite bewildered. After the nurse left I gave it back to him, explaining that he wasn't actually allowed to eat cookies. When I left that day, the nurse came back in, and I looked back to wave goodbye to Dad, and to my chagrin his lap was full of cookie crumbs! Oh, the horror...
The other thing that gave my dad pleasure was watching polka videos. As kids we were forced to listen to blasting loud polka music all day long, so suffice it to say, I have never been too fond of this brand of music. My sister had sent some polka videos for my dad, so I put one in and sat down to watch it with him. As I was watching the 'Polka King' singing, I found myself enthralled. Something about this dear man gave me so much joy, I sat glued to my chair, watching his every move, hanging on every note. I thought to myself "God must really love this guy. I could watch him all day!" Just then God said to me "That's how I feel about you!" This was not my wild imagination, okay? He said it, and when he did, I was overwhelmed and could barely speak or move, much less drive myself home.
The last time I visited my dad before he passed away, I gave him a hug and kiss. His skin was paper thin, and I noticed for the first time how frail he looked. He had become a skeleton of a man. Where was the monster that had terrified me all those years? He hugged me back and told me he loved me. Never in my life had he said those words to me! Then I asked if I could bring him something the next time, and he said "I don't need anything. All I need is your love." (Wow!)
God had given me a beautiful memory to replace all the bad ones. Not only did he soften my dad's heart so he could love, but God showed me that HIS all-consuming love had been there all along.
And that's why those old Christmas memories have turned into works of art in my life. Oh yeah, one more thing. Someday when I'm old and sitting in a nursing home somewhere...for the love of God, LET ME HAVE A COOKIE!