If I had one more Christmas day with you…
I show up at your house an hour before you get out of bed. I will not wait and show up an hour before everything is done and ready to eat like I have in the past, I have one more day with you and I want to make it count, to linger in every minute of the day with the both of you.
Neither of you are big breakfast eaters. I suspect it is from all the years getting up early and starting work plus making sure we got to school on time. I know, Daddy, that most mornings, your breakfast consists of a pack of cheese crackers and a “short boy” Coke. And I remember, Mama, if you have time, you eat a little cereal. But on this morning, this one more day, and while you are still sleeping, I will make breakfast for you both. You will wake to the sound and smell of bacon frying and grits boiling on the stove. And when we are finished, I am the one standing over the sink cleaning up the dishes and the kitchen, letting you rest Mama, something you never seem to do.
I wait in the kitchen for you to start cooking, and then watch your every move and try to remember everything, asking you questions about what and how and why. I try to help as much as I can without getting in the way.
My eyes are taking you all in, trying to capture in my memory every strand of your pillowy, white hair and record the look of your soft, understanding, brown eyes. I can still remember you now when I close my eyes but I want to stare longer this time, this one more time, so that my memories of you are forever clearer, sharper.
And after you finish cooking and we are ready to eat I slowly enjoy every mouthful of food you have prepared, savor every bite until the taste of the food burns an eternal memory on my taste buds. And though I remember your food so well, so much so that it has become the ruler by which all other foods are measured, I want to remember every taste so vividly and carry the tastes and smells with me, on this one more day.
The first half of the day, the morning, is you Mama; but in the afternoon it’s all Daddy. I sit and listen to your sage wisdom and laugh at your jokes with rapt attention. I encourage you to tell me all that you can remember, the good old stories, even if you have repeated them hundreds of times before, I don’t care anymore, repeat them a thousand times if you want; I have no place to go but to spend the day with you. I want to remember them all, to remember your laugh and smile and foolishness, on this one more day.
We gather in the living room and share precious memories—memories of my childhood and those of my brothers. I tell you about my life now and what it is like to live so far from home and halfway around the world. I listen as you both give me praise for my accomplishments, scold me for my mistakes and give me words of advice for my future. I need all of this from you, and even though most of your past words of guidance are still in my memory, I listen more closely this time, on this one more day. I want to be a better man and to honor the memory of you both, not just on this day but for the future too.
In the evening we snack on the leftovers from our lunch. Mama, you never had many big, evening dinners. Late lunches or mid-afternoon dinners were more your style but they were still a big feast. We never did call it “lunch”, did we Mama? We always called it dinner. And Daddy, I am watching that glass of iced tea, I know now just when to add the milk for the last glass of the night, I watched Mama do it so many times, but Mama you sit and relax and let me take care of Daddy and his tea this time, this one more time.
It’s getting late now and this, this one more day is almost gone. I take your hands in my own and hold them. I trace your fingers with mine. Daddy, I look into your sky blue eyes of my father and then at your warm brown eyes Mama. I kiss you both and hug you. A hug that I never want to end. I was not there the day either of you died, I never got to tell you goodbye but I did today, on this one more Christmas day.
I love you and miss you both. I miss my big brother too!