The Spirit of Christmas - 1. Chapter 1: The Spirit of Christmas
My husband and I had just returned from having Thanksgiving with my parents. Even though we all lived in the same county, my husband and I live in a suburban area just outside of the city, while my parents live farther out in a more rural part of the county. For that reason, it wasn’t a long trip to get to their house and we could drive there in less than thirty minutes, but this year we stayed with them for most of the holiday weekend.
We arrived on Wednesday night and then stayed with them until Sunday afternoon so we could spend a little extra time together. We had a really good time while we were there, so I was somewhat confused when my dad called the following Thursday, since we’d only been apart for four days.
“Son, I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’ll just give it to you straight. Your mother had a heart attack last night and died on the way to the hospital.”
I was stunned. She didn’t seem to be having any medical issues while we were there, even though my husband and I did everything we could to take some of the work off her shoulders, especially in the kitchen. We only did it because of her age and to honor her status as my mom, not because she was having any health problems, and that’s why this news came as an absolute shock.
My husband, Adam, helped her prepare the meals and even lifted the turkey in and out of the oven since it was so heavy. He did similar things on the other days as well and we even took them out for dinner on Saturday so she could relax and enjoy our company.
While he was doing those things, I would set the table for every meal, and then after we ate I would clear the table and do the dishes so she didn’t have to do those things. We merely wanted her to take it easy and enjoy the holiday, since every other year she seemed to be doing most of the work. We only wanted her to enjoy the holiday this year while we did as much as we could to make that happen, which made this news even more shocking.
“You didn’t tell us that she’d been having any health problems.”
“She wasn’t dealing with any health problems. As far as I know, she was only taking medication for slightly high blood pressure, but maybe I should have taken that more seriously. I knew her family had a history of heart problems, but other than her slightly elevated blood pressure, we thought she’d got lucky and it skipped her. I guess we were wrong.”
“Have you made the arrangements for her funeral?”
“Yes, I did that earlier today, but I waited to call you because I didn’t want to tell you about this while you were still at work. I wanted you to be home with Adam so he could help to console you.”
“I appreciate that, but what have you planned so far?”
“I’ve arranged for there to be calling hours at the funeral home tomorrow night and the funeral will be held on Saturday at our church.”
“Adam and I will be there as soon as we can contact our employers to arrange for time off. We’ll also help to pay for the funeral, since we know that funerals can be quite expensive.”
“You don’t have to do that. Your mother and I have put enough money aside to pay for both of our funerals. We’ve also paid for side-by-side vaults in the mausoleum at the same cemetery where your grandparents are buried.”
“I’m glad that you’ve taken care of those things, but we still want to chip in and pay for half of everything. You know we can afford to do it, because we both have very good paying jobs.”
“Yes, I know that, and if you still want to do it after you speak with Adam, then I’ll show you the bill when you get here tomorrow.”
After I thanked him for allowing us to do that, he told me the name of the funeral home where the calling hours would be held so I could arrange for an appropriate bouquet to be delivered before we arrived. Then, I sat down with Adam and explained the details of what my dad had told me.
“I’m really glad we spent so much time there for Thanksgiving,” I added, “and that I got to spend a little more time with her before this happened.”
“I know, Seth. It’s never easy to deal with the death of a loved one, but it’s even more difficult when it happens to one of your parents. I’ll call my superior and let him know I won’t be in to work tomorrow so I can be with you. I’m sure he’ll understand that we want to go to the calling hours and funeral together.”
“I knew you’d do that and I’ll call my boss as well. I don’t see the need to drive all the way in to work just to tell him and then have to drive back home again afterward, so I’ll just call him now.”
“Yes, that’s probably best.”
Adam hardly left my side for the rest of the evening, and of course he cuddled with me when we went to bed. I felt more love and strength in his embrace than usual tonight and I was glad that he was here for me. I’m not sure I would have made it through the night in one piece without him.
I’d been close to my mom from the time I was a little kid, and it’s continued even after I left home. She was a stay-at-home mom when I was younger, so she was always there when I needed her most. However, she had to get a job and start working when I was a teen, because it was difficult for our family to live on only my dad’s income, but I could still count on her being there when I needed her most. Oh, my dad was there for me as well, but it was my mom that I went to when I was seeking emotional support.
Shortly after we woke up the next morning, Adam and I packed a bag and got ready to go stay with my dad. We didn’t want him to be alone in that big house where he had spent most of his married life with my mom. That could pose an emotional risk, and maybe even a physical threat to him as well. I had no idea what kind of strain this might have on his body, now that he’d lost his partner of many years
We arrived at the house just before 10:00 and immediately noticed that it appeared as if he hadn’t slept very well the night before.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” I asked concerned.
“A little, but it was difficult to fall asleep without being able to cuddle with her.”
“I understand. Have you eaten breakfast yet?”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
“Then we’ll have to fix that, because you’ve got to eat something to keep up your strength. It’s going to be a long day, and it will seem even longer since you didn’t get much sleep.”
“What if I fix you some eggs, bacon, and toast?” Adam asked. “That’s not a lot, but it will help to keep you going.”
“Ok, that will be fine.”
“How do you like your eggs?”
“However you want to fix them.”
“Mom always prepared sunny-side-up eggs for him.”
“Ok, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“Do you need any help?” I asked.
“No, I know where everything is from helping your mom over the Thanksgiving weekend. I’ll also make a pot of coffee, because I’m sure we can all use a cup.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea.”
A short time later, Adam called us out to join him and we sat down with Dad as he ate.
“I found some orange juice in the fridge, so I poured you a small glass, as well as pouring you a cup of coffee,” Adam told my dad as he placed the plate of food in front of him.
It seemed that Dad must have discovered he was hungrier than he thought, because he ate everything. After thinking about this a little more, I wondered if he hadn’t eaten because he wasn’t able to fix his own breakfast. My mom had always prepared his meals for him, so possibly he wasn’t capable of doing it for himself, but whatever the reason, he scarfed down everything on his plate. After he ate the eggs, he used the toast to mop up what remained of the runny yolk, and he drank the glass of juice as well, and when he finished that he drank his coffee with us.
“How am I going to be able to live without her?” he asked almost in a whisper.
“You’re a strong person and you’ll find a way to manage.”
“No, I’m not a strong person. I won’t be able to take care of myself and this house without her. I depended on her so much.”
“Then we’ll give you an option. You can sell the house and come live with us.”
“Oh, I can’t impose on the two of you.”
“You wouldn’t be imposing, because we asked you to do it,” Adam responded. “You’re family and we take care of family.”
“I’d still feel as if I was imposing. You two have your own lives to live without having to deal with me too.”
“It’s either that or you can move into an assisted living facility. You’d have your own apartment, but the meals would be prepared for you by the staff and you’d eat in the dining facility. You could also have someone come to your apartment and do the cleaning for you.”
“But I’d still be alone.”
“Not all of the time. They have group functions where any person interested can get together with others, and there would probably be more women there than men. You might even find that you hit it off with one of those women and you’ll want to spend time together.”
“I couldn’t do that. I’d feel like I was cheating on your mother.”
“Then come live with us. As far as I can tell, those are your only two options if you don’t want to live alone in the house.”
“Let me think about it and I’ll let you know what I decide later.”
“Ok, that’s fine with us. You might also want to consider taking a nap before the calling hours, because you don’t want to appear worn out when you get there. We’ll be here, so you won’t be alone.”
“Yes, maybe I’ll do that then.”
We spent most of the rest of the day together and he began to open up a little more. “I always thought that I’d die first, but that didn’t bother me because I knew she’d be strong enough to go on without me. I’m just not sure if I can go on without her.”
“Dad, you’ve always been a strong person, although possibly not in the same ways that mom was. While she was doing the things inside the house, you were taking care of everything on the outside, and you even taught me how to do some of those things as well. I know you’ll be fine no matter what you decide and Adam and I will be here for you whenever we’re not at our jobs. We still think it would be best if you came to live with us.”
“I know you and Adam own your own place and it’s a beautiful home, and I’m also glad that both of you have very good, well-paying jobs that you’re happy with. I’m just not sure that you need someone else to have to worry about and take care of.”
“You and Mom took care of me while I was growing up, and now I want to return the favor.”
“I appreciate that, but I’ll have to think about it a little more.”
After my dad went to take a nap, Adam found enough food in the house that he was able to make lunch for us, and later he prepared dinner and we all sat down to eat.
“You’re a pretty good cook for a guy,” Dad told him.
“I’m glad you approve, and if you think about it, some of the best chefs are men.”
“I guess I never thought about that before.”
While Adam was doing the clean up after we ate, I helped my dad get ready to attend the calling hours. I chose the suit and tie for him to wear and laid it out on the bed while he was in the shower, and after Adam and I had showered and dressed, I helped Dad with his tie and made sure he looked good. We then all rode together to the funeral home.
We stood in the receiving line with Dad as he thanked his and mom’s friends, neighbors, co-workers, and distant relatives for coming, and there were quite a few of them.
“This is an impressive showing,” Adam said when there was a short break in the line.
“Yes, it seems that we had more good friends and family members than I realized,” Dad replied.
Since there were so many people that came, the calling house went longer than expected and Dad was worn out by the time calling hours ended. I led him out to the car and Adam drove us back to the house.
“You shouldn’t have any trouble sleeping tonight,” I said as he headed to bed.
“Yes, I suppose I should sleep fairly well tonight.”
Adam and I also slept well and we woke up later than we normally would have. When we went downstairs, we noticed that dad wasn’t up yet, so we gave him a little longer to rest, since we felt he might be making up for not getting a good night’s sleep the night before. After a while, however, I began to worry about him.
“Maybe we should check on him. He should be up by now,” I told Adam.
“Yes, I was about to urge you to do that as well.”
“Ok then let’s do it together.”
When we arrived at his bedroom, I knocked on the door first and called his name. When I didn’t receive an answer, I opened the door slightly so I could peek inside. I knocked again and called out his name one more time, but there was still no response, so we decided to go inside and check on him. We immediately noticed a foul odor as we entered the room and it smelled as if he had wet the bed, and as soon as I saw him I knew he was dead.
“Adam, call 9-1-1 and tell them to send an ambulance.”
After he left, I stayed with my dad because I didn’t want him to be alone. Yes, I was aware that he was beyond caring about that now, but I still wanted to stay with him. It seemed as if he had found his own way to solve the problem of not wanting to live alone.
The ambulance and EMTs arrived a short time later, and one of the EMTs soon verified my suspicion.
“I’m afraid he’s dead, and from the condition of his body, I’d say he died sometime during the night. We’ll take his body to the morgue and you can make arrangements with the funeral home of your choice to pick up the body after the coroner has determined the cause of death.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your help and professionalism.”
After they left, Adam fixed our breakfast, and then he drove us to the same funeral home we were at the previous evening. When I met up with the Funeral Director, I explained the situation and asked him a question.
“Is it possible for you to place my mom and dad’s caskets head-to-head for another viewing tonight, and then we can have their funeral together on Sunday.”
“Yes, I’ll arrange that for you, after I get some more information.”
When we finished up there, we headed over to the church to arrange the funeral service with my parents’ minister. He agreed to hold a joint funeral service at 2:00 on Sunday, and when we were done speaking with him; we drove over to the florist so we could select an arrangement for my dad’s casket.
Once we’d taken care of that, we drove home and attempted to take it easy for a while, because we knew it was going to be another long day.
We ate dinner early and then showered and dressed so we could get to the funeral home before the others began to show up. The main reason for this was so I could ask the Funeral Director a few more questions.
“Did you find out my dad’s cause of death when you picked up his body?”
“Yes, I spoke with the coroner and he said he couldn’t find a physical reason for why he died. All he would say is that his death was due to old age.”
“But he wasn’t that old.”
“I know, so my guess would be that he died of a broken heart. I say this because he told me how close he and his wife were when he came to arrange for her funeral and that he didn’t know if he could live without her.”
“I know, he told us the same thing, but can a person really die from a broken heart?”
“Yes, there have been many documented cases where one spouse died shortly after the other had passed away. The medical profession doesn’t list dying of a broken heart in the text books, and they won’t write it that way on the death certificate, but it was used as the cause of death years ago.”
“I don’t understand, though. We stayed with him at the house last night so we could help to care for him and keep him company.”
“Then at least he didn’t die alone and was with loved ones when he passed into the next world.”
I was slightly consoled by the thought that he wasn’t alone and had spent the night with us, which made it a little easier for me to accept his death. I just wish that I’d been more convincing when I was trying to urge him to come live with us.
The line at calling hours was even longer than it had been the night before, but possibly it was due to the fact that the calling hours were held on Saturday this time. Everyone expressed how sorry they were that I’d now lost both of my parents, and they also shared some anecdotes about my mom and dad. Fortunately, we had started the calling hours earlier this time, due to the fact that it was being held on Saturday, but with the increased number of people that attended, it still ended at about the same time. Adam and I then went to grab a snack before we headed back to my parents’ house.
We got up early the next day so we could attend the usual Sunday service before the funeral service began, and then we went out to get some lunch before we returned to the church. The minister said some very nice things about my parents during the eulogy, and before the service ended he mentioned that there would only be a small service at the cemetery and attendance would be limited. He explained this was because my parents weren’t actually being buried and their bodies would be interred in a vault and there was limited space in the mausoleum for mourners.
Adam and I rode in a limo that traveled behind the hearse, and rather than having the pall bearers position the caskets above the open graves, the caskets were merely slid into the vaults. The marble covering with their names and dates of their birth and death on it was setting on the floor in front of the vault. It would be added later to seal the vault, but that wouldn’t happen until after we had left.
I noticed the minister had altered the normal graveside service at the cemetery slightly, since they weren’t being buried, but it was basically still the same. When the service ended, we rode back to the funeral home in the limo, because that’s where we’d left our car. We then returned to my parents’ house and there was only one more task we’d be needed for, and that was the reading of the wills.
“It’s a good thing you got your parents to talk with you in advance so you’d know what they had and where it was, because you’ll need to know that information now.”
“Yes, I’m glad I did that as well, and they even added me as a third name on their financial accounts, I was also listed as the alternate beneficiary on their insurance policies, and I believe I’m also now the owner of this house and the car.”
“What are you going to do with them?”
“I’ll eventually have to sell the car and put the house up for sale, but I want to go through it first and get rid of as much as I can before I do that.”
“Leave the furniture there while you’re showing it, because I’ve heard houses sell better when people can see how much furniture each room can hold, rather than viewing a bunch of empty rooms. You’ll have plenty of time to empty the rest of it out after you’ve accepted an offer and before the closing.”
“Good point and thanks for bringing it up, but I’ll have to do something with the mattress on my parents’ bed before I do that.”
“Yes, and I’m glad you thought about that.”
That’s exactly the plan we followed too. Nights after work we would go to the house to complete a bunch of different tasks, such as getting rid of the contents of the refrigerator, disposing of any old paperwork, and emptying the dresser drawers. However, we left the clothes that we didn’t throw out hanging in the closet and we’d donate those items to charity later.
It had taken two weeks, but we finally finished those tasks. We’d cleaned out the house and sold the car, and now we were returning to the house to meet up with the realtor I contacted to list the property. When we arrived there, we noticed an SUV parked in the driveway, but that wasn’t the type of vehicle the realtor said he’d be driving. I quickly asked Adam to block the end of the driveway behind the vehicle while I approached the SUV to see who was in it and what they wanted. When I reached the driver’s door, I noticed there was a family inside, so I knocked on the window to get their attention.
“May I help you?” I asked.
“Uh, we’ve driven by here several times before and it appeared that no one was living here, so we thought it would be alright for us to park our SUV in the driveway.”
“I’m Seth Reistetter and this was my parents’ house, but they’ve both passed away. My question for you is why do you need to park your SUV in their driveway?”
“Ummm, this is embarrassing, so let me introduce myself first. I’m John Waite and this is my wife, Sally. The two in the seat behind us are our children, Justin and Amy. To answer your question, I lost my job and we were evicted from our apartment, so we’ve been living in the SUV until I can get another job and find an apartment. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been parking here, and I promise that’s all we’ve done and we haven’t affected the house in any way.”
“What did you do with all of your furniture and other possessions?”
“We sold those things off a few at a time for extra money, and now we only have the items we can fit in here with us.”
Once I heard his story, I signaled Adam to pull our car forward and then come to join me. When he arrived, I introduced him to the driver and told Adam his story. As soon as I finished, I asked Adam to step away from the vehicle with me so we could speak in private.
“After what you just told me and seeing the look on your face, I think I already know what you’re going to say.”
“You probably do, and since Christmas is only a few days away it’s also the right thing to do.”
“So, you’re just going to give them the house?”
“No, I’m merely going to offer to let them live in it until they get back on their feet. We can afford to pay the utilities for them and the house has its own well and septic system so that won’t cost anything. There’s also a huge yard for the kids and I know they’ll love it here, and this way they won’t have to live in the SUV during the winter.”
“Aren’t you worried that they’ll wreck the house?”
“No, after what they’ve been through I suspect they’ll take very good care of it, and once he gets back on his feet we’ll address the situation again. We could even offer to hold the mortgage if they want to purchase the house. I’m sure my parents would approve of this idea as well, because it’s in the spirit of Christmas.”
“Ok, but isn’t the realtor coming?”
“Yes, but I’ll just tell him that we’ve changed our minds. I’m sure it won’t be the first time that something like this has happened to him.”
“Ok, I’ll watch for the realtor then and relay your message, and you can tell the family what you’ve decided. You can also take them inside and show them around.”
I returned to the SUV and explained my offer. To say that they were overjoyed was a vast understatement. They all got out of the SUV so I could show them around, and their two children were actually jumping for joy. Justin was probably twelve or thirteen and Amy was most likely two or three years younger.
They eagerly followed me inside after I’d unlocked the door and excitedly looked around. I took them on a tour of the downstairs first, and they seemed to be quite impressed.
“This house is very nice and I love the kitchen,” Sally stated.
“And me and Justin like the big yard,” Amy stated. “It’s also on a small hill, so maybe we’ll be able to get a sled and slide down it after it snows.”
“And you’re welcome to use my parents’ furniture, since you sold your own, and you’ll be able to use it as long as you want. My husband and I will also pay the utilities for now, as long as you don’t try to take advantage of the situation.”
“Don’t worry, we won’t,” the man agreed. “We’re just grateful that you’re willing to do this for us.”
“I’ll show you the bedrooms next, but let me explain a few things before I do. My parents’ room has a queen-size bed, a dresser with a mirror, a chest of drawers, a nightstand on each side of the bed, and two comfortable chairs where they used to either sit and read or chat with each other. It also has a walk-in closet and its own bathroom, both of which were added when my parents removed the wall between the master bedroom and what used to be a fourth bedroom.”
“It sounds like your parents’ bedroom must be quite large,” Sally remarked.
“I’ll let you judge that for yourself when you see it, and there are two other bedrooms as well. The guest room has their old double bed in it, but my parents purchased a new mattress for it when they moved it in there. The guest room also has a chest of drawers, a nightstand, a small desk with an office chair, and there’s another more comfortable chair for reading. It’s the bedroom Adam and I stay in whenever we visit, which wasn’t very often, since we own a house that’s not too far from here.”
“Then why would you stay here with your parents?” Justin asked.
“There were actually times when it worked out best, because it didn’t make sense for us to drive back and forth. For example, we stayed here from Wednesday night before Thanksgiving until the Sunday after so we could spend time with my parents.”
“Ok, I see now.
“The third bedroom is the room that I used when I was younger and it still has the twin bed that I used. My parents bought a new mattress for it after I I left for college, so it hasn’t been used very much either. There is also a chest of drawers, a small desk with an office chair, and a more comfortable chair where I could sit and read. You’ll just have to decide which of the children gets to use which bedroom.”
“I want the room with the double bed,” Justin quickly announced.
“I’m sure you’ll be happy with which ever bedroom you get, since it’s better than being cramped up and trying to sleep in the SUV,” their dad responded.
“There is also a bathroom that those two bedrooms share and it is only accessed from the hallway. It’s in very good shape, although the last time it was updated was just before I entered high school.”
“I’m sure it will be fine and a lot better than trying to wash up in the restroom of some business,” Sally quickly stated.
I then took them upstairs and showed them the three bedrooms. I was glad that we’d disinfected my dad’s mattress so it no longer smelled, but we would replace it for them. We also showed them the master bathroom and the bathroom off the hallway, and they made numerous favorable comments as they looked around. They also thanked my husband and me many times for letting them use my parents’ former home.
“You’re welcome and all I ask is that you take good care of it.”
“Don’t worry, we definitely will,” Sally agreed.
“Do you have money for groceries?” I asked.
“We still have a little money left over from the things we sold, so we’ll get by.”
“I haven’t cleared the canned food and unopened boxed goods from the cupboards yet, so you’re welcome to use whatever you’d like. I was going to box those things up and donate them to the food bank after we sold the house, but you can take what you can use and then we’ll box up the rest and donate those items.”
They looked through the cupboards quickly and chatted with each other as they did, and then they turned to me and spoke.
“I believe we’ll be able to use a lot of these items and we’ll be happy to box up the rest and donate it for you to save you the trouble,” Sally said. “We’ll still need to go to the grocery store so we can pick up a few other items, but this will be a big help.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to go with you to the grocery store,” Adam stated. “I want to make certain that you get everything you’ll need, and that way I can remind you about any items that you might forget about or possibly didn’t even think of, seeing it’s been a while since you’ve had to do this.”
“We’d be happy to have you go with us,” Sally agreed.
“Oh, and there’s a washer and dryer in the basement, and there’s one of those umbrella clotheslines outside that you’ll be able to use in the nicer weather.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful and it will beat having to lug everything to the laundromat.”
“And I’ll stay here while you’re at the grocery store,” I stated, “since there are a few things I want to dig out of storage in the basement.”
“Can I stay here too,” Justin asked. “I want to go outside and check out the yard and see how big it is.”
“Would you mind if he stayed here too?” John asked.
“No, and I’ll even point out the boundaries to him.”
“Can I stay with them?” Amy quickly followed.
“Sure, it’s fine with me,” I agreed.
After their parents reminded them to behave while they were gone, they turned to leave with Adam.
“Why don’t I drive, seeing you’ve probably got a lot of things in you’re SUV.” They didn’t argue and followed Adam out to our car.
As soon as they had gone, I went outside with their children and pointed out the property lines. I also explained there were fields on three sides and a fairly large wooded area behind the house that belonged to a neighbor.
“I’m sure he won’t mind you if you go into the woods, as long as you don’t do any damage. He always let me use it whenever I wanted.”
“He must be pretty old then,” Amy teased.
“Yes, he is, and he lives about a half-mile down the road in that direction,” I added as I pointed toward his house. “If he or his son asks who you are, just tell him I’m allowing your family to live here and I doubt he’ll bother you.”
“You mean his son still lives with him?” Justin asked.
“No, but my parents told me that his son comes to check on his parents quite regularly, since they’re so old.”
While they were looking around outside, I went into the house and brought some boxes up from the basement and set them in the living room. I then sat in my dad’s favorite chair and waited for Adam, John, and Sally to return. When I heard them drive up, I went outside to see if they needed help carrying things inside.
I must have looked surprised when I saw how many grocery bags there were, so Sally quickly explained it to me. “Your husband was pushing his own cart around the grocery store and we thought he was doing some shopping for the two of you, but then he added those items to what we had picked up. I guess he thought we’d need them but couldn’t afford the extra expense.”
“And then he put everything on his debit card,” John added. “We told him he didn’t have to do that, but he insisted, so that’s why it seems like we have so much. I hope you’re not upset.”
“No, not at all, and I expected he would do something like that when he offered to go with you.”
“You two are simply amazing,” Sally stated. “I hope the kids weren’t a problem for you.”
“No, not at all, and I pointed out the property lines and told them a few facts about the adjoining property. I believe they’re just checking out the area now.”
Once we carried all of the groceries into the house, they spotted the boxes in the living room. “Are you taking those with you?” Sally asked.
“No, those boxes contain the artificial Christmas tree my parents used and all of their decorations and strands of lights. I thought the kids might enjoy putting us a Christmas tree for the holiday.”
“My lord, you’ve thought of everything,” Sally said as she smiled at me. “It will help to make this a real Christmas this year.”
“Why, how long have you been living out of your SUV?”
“Only since July, but my husband went from full-time to part-time about a year before that, so last Christmas was very subdued. We’d sold the artificial Christmas tree and decorations we had for some extra money so we could buy presents for the kids. We thought that was more important than putting up a tree.”
“I hope this year you’re able to do both.”
At this point I gave them my dad’s house key, but I kept my key, and then Adam and I left. As we were driving home, I made a comment.
“We have to stop and order a mattress for my parents’ bed, but would you mind if we went to Walmart and Target after that so we can do some shopping. I want to pick up a few things for the family so they’ll have a nicer Christmas this year.”
“No, I wouldn’t mind at all and I was thinking the same thing.”
After we picked out a new mattress and received the store’s promise that it would be delivered today and that they’d remove the old mattress at the same time, we headed to the other stores. When we finished shopping, we went home and I hopped online to look for one additional item. I found it on the local area listing for Craigslist and called to find out if I could go there to see the item.
The person I spoke with agreed to let us visit, so Adam and I made one more trip so we could inspect the items. We were pleased to discover it was in very good shape, and I knew it would make the children very happy, so I bought it. On the way home, we drove by my parents’ house to make sure the mattress had been delivered. There was a delivery truck parked in the driveway and we saw a couple of men carrying out the old mattress and loading it into the truck. Satisfied, we drove home and wrapped the items we’d just purchased the best that we could.
On Christmas Day we loaded all of those items into our car after we ate breakfast, but we waited until 11:00 before we drove over to my parents’ house. We thought it best to allow the family time alone first, before we dropped in on them. I would have called, but John told me he didn’t have a phone any longer and we didn’t think they’d mind us showing up, under the circumstances.
When we got out of the car, I grabbed the fairly large box to carry inside while Adam picked up a smaller box and two plastic sleds. The Waites must have heard us drive up, because they were opening the front door as we approached the house.
“What’s all this?” John asked.
“We picked up a few things to make certain you’d have a nice Christmas,” I answered.
“But you’ve done so much for us already,” Sally protested.
“We didn’t do that much, so don’t worry about it. We no longer have families to do this for, so it allows us to do a little something special for you instead.”
What I’d just said was true and neither of us had a family any longer. My parents had died and Adam’s family had disowned him after he came out as being gay. It’s also the reason that when we got married, Adam had no problem dropping his surname and taking mine instead.
I set down the box I was carrying, and Adam handed the plastic sleds to Justin and Amy before I spoke. “We remembered that you’d said something about possibly sledding down the hill when it snowed, so we wanted to make sure you both had sleds so you could do that.”
“And this is for you,” Adam said as he handed the smaller box to John and Sally.” They quickly opened it and looked at us in shock.
“What is it?” Justin asked.
“There are two gift cards, one from Walmart and the other is from Target.”
“And there’s a $200 balance on each one. We thought that each of you might need a few new clothes, so you can use the gift cards to purchase what you need.”
“Thank you, but you don’t have to keep doing these things for us.”
“Hey, it’s just a Christmas present,” I replied.
“And whose the bigger box for,” Justin asked.
“It’s for you and Amy,” I answered, and they immediately raced over to open it.
“It’s a Play Station 3,” Justin squealed when he saw it.
“It’s used and the family that owned it was selling it because they’d purchased a Play Station 5 for their children. They even threw in some of the games, because those games can’t be used on the PS5. I knew you had my parents’ TV to use, but probably couldn’t afford to pay for cable, so you can use this on the TV instead.”
“It looks great. Thank you.”
“Did you ever have a Play Stations before?”
“No, but we’ve played on our friends’ systems.”
“Great, then I’ll just show you how to hook it up to the TV,” Adam offered.
“Thank you very much,” John and Sally said.
“We weren’t able to do much for them,” John added, “other than just buying them a few items they needed, although we bought Amy a doll and Jeremy a second-hand baseball glove and a baseball. The older glove that he had wasn’t appropriate for him any longer, because it was made for a smaller child. I figured I could play catch with him, and if he had a better glove I was hoping he could play on a team this summer.”
“I know they have leagues for younger children and one of the leagues is for boys his age. I played in those leagues when I was younger, and I believe I’ve still got the bats that I used back then. They’re still in decent shape, since they’re aluminum, and he can have them if he wants. If he does, I’ll bring them over in the spring, and if you wouldn’t mind, Adam and I would be happy to join you whenever you take him to the park for batting practice and to work with him on his fielding. The park is only a couple of miles from here.”
“That would be a big help, because I’m not much of an athlete, but I really hate to keep imposing on you guys.”
“You’re not imposing. We offered.”
* * * * *
Adam and I ended up staying close with the family and I even helped John get a job. He’d told me that he’d been working in construction, and when he was laid off he tried doing some freelance work on his own, but no one had money to do any remodeling. Once I found out what he did, I knew one of the guys I was friends with when I was younger was the foreman for a large construction company, so I got in touch with him and mentioned John’s situation. He was happy to give John a try, but he was even happier when he saw how skilled John was, so he gave John a full-time job.
John and his family have lived in my parents’ house for a couple of years now and he told me he was interested in buying the property. We discussed a sale price and interest rate we’d use, since we were willing to hold the mortgage for them, since his credit had taken a huge hit while he was out of work. Adam helped me figure out the monthly mortgage payment and John agreed it would be fine. The payment included an escrow amount to cover the taxes and the homeowner’s insurance.
We did this because I wanted to be certain the taxes were paid so the property wouldn’t go into foreclosure due to a tax lien. I also wanted to know that the house was covered by insurance and would be repaired if they experienced an unexpected disaster. I even recommended three insurance companies to him that I knew had good reputations for paying claims in a timely manner, and then I let him choose which one he preferred. I even opened an escrow checking account so I could make sure the premiums were paid, as well as the taxes, and the arrangement was working out very well.
Jeremy and Amy also made certain that Adam and I stayed involved in their lives as well, and they even added the honorary title of uncle to our names before addressing us. Even after the dreadful experience of losing both of my parents, and Adam being disowned by his family for being gay, expressing the true spirit of Christmas has made us part of a new family and the feeling is absolutely wonderful.
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