I’m inching closer to home, and as I sit in a Starbucks writing this, watching people gathering and exchanging gifts and wishing each other “happy holidays” I feel that pang of homesickness strike even harder. That got me to thinking about all of those years when Dad was a single guy, after he immigrated to America. He could rarely afford to make trips home to Ireland. So what did he do for Christmas all of those years?
I don’t remember him ever talking about memories of Christmas spent as a bachelor. Dad was pretty good at making pals, so maybe one of them invited him over to their family’s house for a Christmas dinner. Certainly Dad was quite handsome back then, so maybe he had a girlfriend to go out on a date with on Christmas. Knowing Dad, I’m guessing a pub was involved at some point. Maybe other solitary types banded together for a night of merriment. Also, I’m sure Dad would have attended holiday mass.
Or perhaps Dad had to work, or offered to work, to let the family guys spend the holiday at home. That’s something that Dad would have done.
I’m sure the pangs of homesickness were quite strong, especially those first few years in the States. He worshipped his mother and it must have been difficult to be separated from her during the holiday season. Did he even get a chance to make a phone call home?
This is one of those moments where I wish I could call up Dad and ask him to solve this mystery I’ve just created. Instead, I am left to my own imagination of what Dad did all of those holidays before Mom and I came along.
The best gift you can give yourself this holiday season is to ask your loved ones to tell stories about their past. Ask those burning questions now. You never know when it might be too late.