This, my 30th Christmas, is the first without you. You always managed to find me somewhere, and I’ll never forget–beyond the many spent in Dover and Portsmouth, driving around or strolling in Prescott Park–the Christmases in New York, Boston, Amsterdam, and Marrakesh. I had hoped to spend my 31st Christmas with you in California, but instead I’m spending it thinking about you.
As you know, Christmas has always been my favorite day of the year, and perhaps you don’t know, but that’s because of you. How I loved watching your face…even more so than Mom’s…like me, she loves Christmas for the sake of watching other people’s excitement, but you, you loved opening presents from me just as much as Mom and I loved watching you.
My obsession with sushi is because of Christmas with you. Don’t forget how, the first year we went to Taipei & Tokyo for Christmas (was I 16? Did I drive, too?) how you challenged me to a wasabi-eating contest, whereupon I discovered that wasabi-eating contests would be a great party trick for me for years to come. And my insistence this year on eating Christmas sushi with Anas here in San Francisco is also because of you. Even when you were in the hospital, you made me sneak sushi in to replace the heinous meals they were feeding you.
I’ve been doing okay, Dad. I work, and that gets me through it, because you know how much I love what I do. And I’ve got amazing friends. Some of them planted olive trees for you in Palestine, you know. I know that doesn’t mean as much to you as it does to me, but I know you respected my views anyway. Some have written beautiful things about you, things I’d forgotten: one of my old classmates remembered how you’d come to pick me up from jazz band, the only “cool” dad in a leather jacket and beard. Another remembered how you were always jovial. I know I’ve seen every side of you (a week together in a two-seat pickup truck will do that to you), but the only side I think about is that one. I think about your laughter at being called “Ali Baba” by nearly every Moroccan shopkeeper in Marrakesh; the tricks you played on me, like pretending to have Tourette’s in the line at Subway in the hopes of embarrassing me (you underestimated my ability to play along);and our ridiculous 5am (okay, 7am, but I know you waited two hours for me to get up) summer yard sale Saturdays filled with laughter and mocking other people together. You know, even though I bought that new bike, I still hold on to the one I watched you pack into the back of your Miata, cracking up the entire time as I snapped photo after photo.
I’m getting through each day, but Christmas, Dad, is the hardest time of all. Perhaps partly because I’m in a new city, a warm(ish) city, without snow, but mostly because I didn’t spend December seeking out the perfect gift for you. I didn’t spend hours trolling online shops and I didn’t sneak out on Christmas Eve for that one last thing. And I knew that the end game this year didn’t include you and mom. We did that on purpose, Dad, I think it was easier for both of us to just do something different. Together, without you, it would have been too much.
But as I pack up the Christmas tree (fake–I know, I know) next week, so will a small bit of the weight be lifted off my chest. Because I will have survived my first Christmas without you.