I have the most wonderful Christmas morning memories . . . it’s still one of my favorite days to get up early and just reflect. I sit here now at 6:00 a.m. drinking coffee and doing what I’ve done every year for many now – think about a man I never really knew.
Robert Francis McCarthy was born in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1914. He was first and foremost a family man – a man of faith, hard word, and very much love. He ran a business, was active in his church, and made sure his wife and children knew he loved them and was there for him. I know this – but I really didn’t know him.
A drunk driver took him from his family on Christmas morning in 1956 – walking home from midnight mass. He was, in moments, gone from the lives of his wife and five children – I was the baby. I was just 19 months old.
However, my memories of growing up in that warm brick house on the East Side of Detroit are not of sadness, mourning or death – they are of brightly lit Christmas lights (everywhere – seriously – even on the huge evergreens outside!). Sister and brothers who absolutely would NOT let me into the living room until my Mom had her coffee and was ready to enjoy the Santa experience – trust me, it was torture sitting on that kitchen chair stairing at that closed door KNOWING there were piles of toys under that big Christmas tree! Other years being so very excited waiting for my older, married brothers to arrive with their kids in tow so we could have a house full of happy people eating all that fruitcake Mom made!
And the dinners! Wow – cooking for days – I don’t know how my Mom did it!
But I never, ever, saw a sad face on anyone – and I know that my siblings rember my father and that day very well. And I never heard a sad word from them or my Mother – and she must have had some sad memories in her mind every single Christmas.
But I was very blessed as my Mom and my brothers and my sister all made sure that Christmas for me was magical, beautiful, fun and something I always had good memories from – and that is the true gift I was given.
Now that I’m older than Daddy ever got to me, I think maybe – just maybe – that was his gift to me.
Daddy left me with family that cared enough to make sure I didn’t grow up with sad memories of the father I never knew but with wonderful stories about him – magical memories of holidays traditions he and my Mom started long before I came along – and a warm, cozy home to grow up in and watch my nieces and nephews have the same Christmas experiences and memories as they grew up.
Nothing will ever bring me the experience of growing up with my Dad in my life – but he was definitely there – always – in the Christmas spirit of Mom, Bob, Mick, Terry and Kay – my family.
Now I will do as every year – spend a little more time thinking of Dad – and now the others who have joined him in my early Christmas morning thoughts – my Mom, my brother Mick, and my beautiful Elise Noel. We miss you all so very much.
And my husband and I are about to experience another magical Christmas day with my sister – she has carried carried on Daddy and Mom’s Christmas memory-making tradition with her family – this is our new tradition – but Dad’s still there, believe me.
Merry Christmas to Everyone!
It’s not the Presents – it’s the PRESENCE.