This photo, taken 5 years ago in December 2012, is the last time Dad played Santa Claus, at the White Branch Church of the Brethren Christmas Party. He was already showing many signs of the Alzheimer's that would take his life 2 1/2 years later, but even through his confusion that night the twinkle was in his eyes.
Amazing how much can change in 5 years. Dad is gone and the "little girl" sitting on his lap (that's me!) is now 60 and in many ways a much different person.
God, so good in His infinite wisdom and power, has healed both of us. Dad is in Heaven and I'm cancer-free.
Mama has changed so much in 5 years too. I love this photo of the last time she sat on Santa's lap that same night.
Little did she know. Or any of us.
When I mentioned putting up her Christmas tree this year, she told me that Christmas would never be the same without Dad. Her words: "Your daddy WAS Christmas."
Fast forward a couple of years to December 2014. Their last Christmas together.
At this point, Dad really had no idea what was going on most of the time. As if he'd never decorated a tree before, I handed him ornaments and he was like a child placing them on the tree in clusters. But even as Alzheimer's scrambled his memories, he still loved Christmas.
I think Dad was just as excited about Christmas as we were! This is a picture of our Christmas morning stash after Santa's visit in 1967. Each of us got a couple of small gifts and a bowl of apples and walnuts for the family to share. Dad could hardly wait for us to see what Santa had brought, and he always beat us waking up on Christmas morning.
One of my treasured photos...in 1969, Dad dressed up as Santa with me (looking super-cool at 12 years old with my pale blue glasses) and my three siblings Maria (7), Barbara (9), and Mark (2).
That day, as they did every December, Dad and a group from White Branch Church had thrown a Christmas party for a group of residents of what we used to call the State Hospital, a home for severely mentally-disabled people. They'd take cookies and punch and lots of gifts, and Dad would dress up as Santa and pass them out to each resident, calling them by name. He held these adult patients on his lap, played and teased with them, oohed and aahed over their gifts, even rocked their baby dolls if they handed them to him. When I was older, I got to go along. One of my most beautiful and poignant memories of Daddy was of him at those parties, laughing and bringing joy as tears streamed out of his bright blue eyes at the devastated lives in front of him. But for one moment out of the year, "Santa" brought them great joy and he loved being a part of that.
I am so very grateful for those memories. And I miss him most this time of year.
I loved Daddy.
And Daddy loved Christmas.