Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

What Do I Want For Christmas?

I am fairly certain, as a child, I made a Christmas wish list.  I do know it never went to “Santa”, though up until I turned eight years old, I received presents from the fat man in red.  The next year, I discovered who Santa really was, and that ended the gifts from him.

I still really had no aversion to Christmas, though clearly I never really celebrated it with all the glitz and commercialism.  I most certainly never celebrated the day for what it was supposed to matter to me as a Lutheran.  But in 1988, when I got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I certainly seemed to know where to direct my anger.  In 1988, I never wanted to hear the word Christmas ever again.

Things were different for me in 1989, though I was still in the middle of my chemotherapy.  The anger was gone.  And scans had shown the chemotherapy was working.  And then I said it, “all I want for Christmas is for this to be over with.”  This is truly the first thing that I can remember ever asking for, for Christmas.

For the next decade and a half, I would never ask for anything for Christmas again.  I would participate in Christmas activities, such as attending parties, going to Christmas Eve church service (one of the two times a year I would attend Church), and even decorate, quite extravagantly.  Some say I aspired to be Clark Griswald with some of my outdoor displays.


While I did not particularly care for Christmas any longer, I did not want to ruin it for anyone else.  That would change with the arrival of my daughters.


I still did not ask for anything for Christmas, but at least I felt my heart get back into the spirit of Christmas.  And I found myself once again, getting involved with the religious part of the holiday by once again attending the Christmas Eve service with my daughters.


And seeing how much Santa meant to my children, I did everything I could to protect their enjoyment of the holiday, dreading the day that they too would discover that Santa was nothing more than a “belief”, or spirit.

Every year since my daughters were adopted, I would put on a Santa suit, and video and pictures would be taken of me placing gifts under the tree, eating the cookies and drinking the room temperature milk, just to have something to actually show Santa had come.  I even played with Pollo, our golden retriever.


And that is where the cover was almost blown.  As both of my daughters were excited to see Santa had come, and what he had done, my oldest daughter at age 3 could not help but notice one glaring concern with Santa.  No, not that Santa forgot the belt, but “look Daddy, HoHo’s wearing your sneakers!”  I would make sure to put the black overlays on from that year on.

But while I always encouraged my daughters to write a Christmas wish list to Santa, their requests were always modest, nothing outlandish.  And this they did on their own.  Neither daughter had been raised to be materialistic.  And neither daughter has ever asked, “is that all there is” following the conclusion of opening gifts.  And I continued to not ask for anything for Christmas.

Well, as usual, the question has been asked of me again, by so many, “what do you want for Christmas?”  This year, I actually have one thing I would like.  Last year, during the Christmas break, my children visited me.


That to me was the best gift they could have ever given to me.  And so, that is what I have asked for again this year.

The funny thing is, in conversation with my daughters the other night, my youngest had mentioned that she wanted to buy me something for Christmas.  But my oldest was very quick to chime in, “our going to visit Dad is his Christmas gift.”  I am so proud of my daughters as it is, but my oldest hit the nail right on the head.  She knows me well enough, to be with them once again, is all I want for Christmas.

See you soon.

Merry Christmas everyone.  Happy Chanukah.  And Happy New Year.


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