Gary and Don are looking forward to celebrating the holidays: party planning, tree trimming, and getting ready for a visit from their son Josh. For Gary, however, the memories of past Christmases are beginning to fade, falling casualty to a cruel twist of fate. It's up to Don to fill in the gaps…and hopefully make this Christmas another one to remember. A short story.
The sad smile crossed Don’s face again. The Gary he remembered would have set up a whole other tree just for the handmade ornaments Josh had brought home throughout his childhood. He knew that their son would turn red as a beet as Gary regaled friends with stories of how he and Josh had spent an entire afternoon making turkeys out of pinecones and pipe cleaners as well as giant paper fans with their child’s picture glued onto them.
“Sure,” he said finally. “We could do that.”
Well-manicured hands picked through the pile of paper and glue ornaments. “The turkey,” Gary said finally. “He loves the turkey.”
“You remember when you guys made this?”
Silence engulfed the room. “No,” Gary said finally.
Don smiled. “Josh missed making the ornaments in class. It was the fifth grade, I think. You went down to the school the next day, picked him up, got the directions, and came home and spent the rest of the day making them. I swear there were like, ten or twelve turkeys on the table when I got home.”
“Yeah, okay. I remember now.” Gary returned the smile. “We gave a bunch of them away. He insisted we keep this one, though.” Thick fingers twirled the worn creation slowly as Gary inspected it. One of the pipe-cleaner feathers had broken in two, the right moveable beady eye nearly falling off. “I’m glad we did.”
“I’m glad we did, too.” The clock chimed from the front hall. “Time for your medicine.”
The couple went into the clean white kitchen, feet tapping on the painstakingly arranged black-and-white checkerboard tile. Don remembered spending the better part of six months trying to help Gary remodel, with disastrous results. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Gary had asked one evening, seeing his partner covered from head to toe in tile dust and grout.
“Not a clue,” he’d replied. “I’m a photographer, remember?”
“Well, don’t look at me! Plants, flowers, and bushes are one thing. Carpentry and tile floors…not really my area, Don! Maybe we should call a contractor…”
“Are you kidding?” he’d shot back. “Remember how much that contractor soaked Wayne and Shirley down the block for? No, we can do this ourselves…even if it kills us!”
That memory hit Don like a stone. The recent changes at the newspaper company he worked for left him wondering about what to do next. Thankfully, the newspaper industry was more progressive than the state legislature. Three more years, he thought, and Gary and I will be set, as far as insurance goes.
If I can hang on that long. The worry niggled at the back of Don’s head. It’s a good thing we both reworked our wills two years ago… I’d hate to think what might have happened if we hadn’t done that.