To Tom on the occasion of our 17th Wedding Anniversary and 20th Christmas together.
I remember back to our first Christmas in our first home together. We posed for a photograph in front of the fireplace, the four of us in our matching, personalized holiday nightshirts. I remember your parents and one of your brothers looking at us with “WTF?” expressions, and I thought that they were wondering what the heck you’d gotten yourself into. I’m not sure that your family understood me and the kids back then, or even now, but the important thing is that you did. And we became a family.
You were willing to play along with us and join in our traditions, whether we were decking the halls Griswold-style every December or dressing in matching Disney-themed shirts to go to Disneyland umpteen times each year. You took part in all of our shenanigans, and you did it with a light heart, patience, and never took us, or yourself, too seriously. Over the years we had water fights that spread into the house. You made “Domination!” a family buzzword. You picked up kids in the middle of the night when sleepovers went haywire. You let us take your picture outside of the ER with an icepack on your bum after you slipped on some rocks under a waterfall. And there was the time Snowball got out of her cage. In the middle of the night. You captured her. With an oven mitt. You changed diapers, helped with homework, volunteered in classrooms, and went to countless school plays, holiday pageants, and performances of piano, ballet, tap, flute, and sign language. You went to swim meets, track meets, basketball games, volleyball games, and water polo games, to name a few. You coached YMCA basketball, went on college visits, attended parents’ weekends and numerous graduations, walked all over our neighborhoods every Halloween for twenty years, and jumped on an airplane with a moment's notice to be right outside of the delivery room while your first grandchild was busy being born.
You modeled what a good father, grandfather, and husband does. And now our oldest daughter married a family man who is able to pull off wearing a Griswold Family Christmas or Disney shirt, which is helped much by his own swagger and sense of humor. Our middle daughter is about to marry a great guy too. We love him and sense that he will cooperate with our shared vision for family holidays. Dan, you will wear your matching shirt when we watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or go to Disneyland when you guys visit, right? Of course you will. ☺
In fact, it was during one of our Disneyland trips years back, when Kristen and Adam were designing personalized shirts, that we officially became the Rouseketeers. Obviously, we could not have been so named without you, and we all still have those shirts. In fact, we still have every Disney shirt from trips past because we still wear them from time to time in all of their awesomeness. We also still have them because I have that little tiny hardly worth mentioning very much improved these days clutter issue that you never complained about and why would you because I always know where to find everything and I’m always prepared. Often way in advance. Down to the last detail. And it only took about eighteen and a half years for you to stop asking me why I had to do things that way. But you always helped me along, even when you didn’t know why.
So, what did you get in return for all of the times you had to show up on a Christmas card in a matchy-matchy shirt besides getting to be in matchy-matchy shirts with us? You live your life surrounded by four women who love you, appreciate you, and understand you, too. We are grateful for the way your feet have been firmly planted next to ours through years of learning, healing, growing, and blooming. We are grateful for the vast amount of patience that you have shown us in so many ways, even if you are notorious for your openly expressed loathing of waiting in line and sitting in traffic. Your competitive spirit has been a challenge around the table while playing board games (we won’t even speak of Go-Karting), but it has served our family well when it comes to taking care of us and we know it. Out in the world and workforce, you are a champion and always bring home the spoils of your labor to share with us. We have a good life, but not because of what you give us. It isn’t about that. We have a good life because of who you give us.
What I think will always be my favorite Christmas gift from you was the year that we had decided not to spend more than $10 on our gifts to each other. Of all of the many years of Christmases and gifts under the tree over the last two decades, that is the one I remember clearly and most lovingly. You wrote me a beautiful poem, which I still have. Of course. And rather than just give it to me on Christmas morning, you waited until the clock struck midnight on Christmas Eve. In the darkness of our bedroom, while we were nestled in bed, you asked me if I wanted my Christmas gift then. I thought, “Yeah, right,” thinking that it would be you know what. But I said, “Sure.” And then you recited word for word every verse of that poem. I’ll never forget it. The next morning you opened your present from me. I had taken a photograph of Laura (who was then almost two) wearing a pair of white-feathered wings (that had previously been a part of one of Kristen’s Halloween costumes), with a cloud-printed sheet for a background. I put the photograph of your little angel in a “talking” frame that I had found for under $10, and recorded her saying, “I love my Daddy!” You still have that framed photograph on your bookshelf. If the house ever caught fire, I would grab that. (And my MacBook Pro.) (And Ducklina.) (And my autographed copy of Adam Lambert on the cover of Rolling Stone.)
I love you and I will continue to love you ‘til death do us part. It is my vow today that I will think, and act, above and beyond my original commitment to love, honor, cherish, and abide by you. And I promise that each and every day of our lives, I will throw for the end zone when it comes to finding joy and the coolest mass-marketed Griswold Christmas Vacation shirts available in any given year ‘til death do us part.
1 year ago