My family enjoyed some time together at the kitchen table after Christmas dinner. We all enjoyed the traditional turkey, mildly brown sugar-glazed sweet potatoes, and the last piece of ice cream-topped pumpkin pie. The oven was still warm, and there were still delicious cooking aromas. The comments were pouring in for my sister, who was also our chef: “Fabulous meal,” “I honestly could not eat another mouthful,” and “Everything was excellent.” Dad was comfortably standing close by after getting up from his chair.
My nephew started dribbling his new basketball around the table and throughout the kitchen, never one to stay idle for too long. He halted when he got close to Dad, almost hesitantly. Dad grabbed the ball with trembling in his crinkled palms. The youngster looked up and across at us in confusion when he remained silent. The ball was cautiously passed across after considerable persuasion.
I kept a tight eye on my dad to see what he would do. His face broke into a cheeky smile. More brilliant than any Christmas lights was the glint in his eyes. Dad tossed the ball on the floor before catching it while holding it and extending his arm forward. Repeatedly, this was done. He then turned to face our gathered group while nodding in agreement. Dad started a game of catch by gently tossing the ball away.
The eagerly extended hands of players kept passing the ball. The heated kitchen was filled with cries of “Over here!” Dad had severe Alzheimer’s disease, so his active involvement in this game was astonishing. He had lost many memories and his ability to recall names, locations, and specific moments in time due to dementia. Despite this, Dad was aware of the ball and what you could do with it.
Dad and I rarely played when I was small. To his credit, Dad put forth a lot of effort to support us. He was quite withdrawn and rarely expressed or exhibited signs of emotion; his preferred game was chess, which he finally taught me how to play. I had grown up and started working as a caretaker, so I was powerless to stop Dad’s decline. Before he took the basketball, father-and-son interactions had been sporadic at best.
How long we played catch is a mystery to me. The importance of the time was insignificant. Dad led us with joy till he became tired. I know that our game came to an untimely end and that it was now necessary to deal with the numerous dirty dishes piling up on the counters. However, the moment will undoubtedly endure forever. Dad gave me a unique moment for Christmas, which I will always value.
That Christmas is something I’ve always enjoyed remembering. The effect it had on me was profound. I can now appreciate my dad’s actions as a grownup with kids in my life that I cherish. Given that spending time with loved ones is genuinely better than anything in the world, I can now understand that he was not, as I had assumed, “giving up his Christmas” but rather finding even more delight in it. I was incredibly grateful for my dad’s simple effort to teach us.