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Archive for January 6th, 2010

The Gift

It’s the thought that counts. The best gifts are from the heart.  We’ve heard these sayings for most of our lives and for the most part we believe them.  But isn’t there always a small part of us that is more cynical than that?  Usually, it is in the giving that we feel this way.  I know that I question the gifts I am giving each Christmas.  Did I spend enough?  Is it nice enough?  Will they like it?  But sometimes it is in the receiving or the expectations of receiving.

This Christmas though, like a Hallmark special, these sentiments were brought home.  As I was heading out the door to Christmas Eve mass, I decided to check my email, more out of habit than expectation.  But there it was.  A gift from my father.

My father is not an emailer.  Until Christmas Eve, I had received exactly three emails from him in my entire life.  The subject line read simply, Ann Marie Wilson.  There was no body of the letter, just an attachment, again labeled Ann Marie Wilson.  I almost left it sitting, thinking I would call my dad later to make sure he had sent this and that the attachment was not some virus that had been sent using his account.  But something told me to take the chance. Maybe it was the Marie in my name.  No one except my daddy calls me Ann Marie and even he hasn’t used it in years.

So, I opened it and I stood there, in front of my computer on Christmas Eve, tears streaming down my face reading a poem about the love of a father for a daughter.  A poem my father had written for the daughter who he chose to make his own thirty eight years ago.

The thing that struck me most about the poem was not just the love he poured into it.  It wasn’t just the fact that my dad is not a poet or even a writer by profession or nature.  It was the fact that I already knew all of these things he was telling me.  He describes the moment he met me at a bowling alley on his first date with my mother.  I was three.  He asks whether I remember it.  I don’t remember it but I know it is the moment he fell in love with me, because he has told me the story so often over the years.  He always tells it the same way, explaining how he knew I was meant to be his daughter.

He goes on to talk about our life together – his teaching me to ride my bike, the times he pulled splinters out of my fingers and cactus spikes from my toes.  He talks about the tough times with my mother and then our lives after their divorce.  And he talks about giving me away at my wedding.

The point of the poem is to tell me that I am a gift in his life.  I didn’t need a poem to know this.  I have always known that my daddy loved me.  I have always known that, even though he has three children of his own, he has never thought of me as anything less than his daughter.

I wanted to write something about this poem right away but the words were not there.  Two weeks later and the words still escape me.  But I had to try – try to explain how the poem was only part of the gift.  The rest of the gift was the years of having a daddy.  He could have chosen to marry my mom, have his own kids and treat me nicely.    He didn’t have to teach me to ride a bike or read a book.  He didn’t have to love me.  But he did.  And that was the best gift.

Each year, as Christmas approaches I worry over the gifts I give my children.  Will they like them?  Will they think their brother or sister got something better?  Will they understand why I bought the things that I did?  I am sure that my parents did the same thing.  And I am sure I will do the same thing for years to come.  But now, there is a part of me that knows, I mean really knows, that the best gift I give them will always be the love.

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