Posted in Christmas, Family, Holidays, Uncategorized

The Last Gift

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 His breath danced in the cold crisp morning air, heart still imitating the rhythm of youth. The shoppers rushed by, cardboard cups of fleeting minutes steaming in their cold hands, urging them to shop more, do more, fit it all in. He fondly remembered that compulsion to experience every part of the Christmas magic that kept the monsters of work and corruption, grinding their hideous jaws, at bay. Candy cane peace on earth, gumdrop goodwill.

He grimaced at the pain, knowing he would do better to escape to the warmth, reluctance tugging at his reason. Just awhile longer, he told himself, scolding the menace that would confiscate his hard-fought joy. His daughter would chirp at him for being out in the cold; her concern a pinprick, well-intended, pointing out how tenuous his survival.

Hearing the jingle before he saw them, little dog straining at his harness, a tiny reindeer in its festive jacket. Pushing a smile past a grimace, he waved at the boy and small dog running through the snow toward him.

Boundless energy restrained, the two pups halted before him in the snow, fresh-faced Christmas enthusiasm stamped on rosy cheeks.

“Hey, I got you something.” The boy thrust a wrapped gift toward the old man.

“You shouldn’t have, Jake, but I thank you all the same.” The old man took the gift and handed the bag sitting next to him to the boy.

“For me? Cool! Thanks! ” The boy ripped open the bag and pulled out a watch, it’s long gold tail dragging in the snow before he whipped it up, mopping off the snow with his scarf.

“The watch itself isn’t worth much.” The old man smiled, his face ashen snow. “It symbolizes the greatest gift, one I never appreciated, time.”

The boy squinted one eye, shrugged and nodded toward the gift shaking in the shrunken hand, “Open yours.”

The old man tore the paper, choking down a sob, coughing to hide his distress.

“It’s a calendar, I made it myself, see, I drew pictures for all the months, so I guess we both gave each other the gift of time!” The boy laughed at his joke, oblivious to the agony slashing the old man’s heart.

After a long moment the man composed himself, “This is the best gift I’ve ever received, Jake. I will treasure it.”

The boy smiled, his feet tapping on the ground as he looked over to where some children were skating on the rink. “I gotta go, I promised Sydney and Dave I’d meet them, we’re going skating.” He waggled the skates flung over his shoulder to illustrate his excitement. “Don’t know why we exchanged gifts before Christmas, but it was fun. See ya later!” The energy burst its gates, boy and dog flying to their next adventure.

The old man smiled as watched the boy go, looking down at the calendar he’d never use.

“We both had the gift of time, my dearest boy, I just hope you use it better than I did.”

The old man wobbled off the bench, one last look at the shoppers then his grandson before retreating to the consolation of his waiting bed.

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Very me

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