In my materialistic mind, I have, at times, wished for certain presents, even if it may mean buying something for myself.
A year ago at Christmas, I was caught totally off guard by a present that was so simple, yet something that had taken the better part of two decades to make.
My youngest daughter gave me a clear jar, on which she had glued a yellow piece of paper to the front that read "Dad's Memories."
Inside the jar, which was probably about four inches in height and width, was some of the richest and warmest gifts I could have ever imagined.
There were 50 small pieces of paper, about two inches by a half-inch. Each one was folded. Using as few words as possible, she referenced certain things we had done together in her 19 years.
There were such things as "Taking us to Devil's Den,"referring to a weekend excursion to a small cabin when the girls were in junior high and the weather was so cold and wet that we stayed inside, huddled together for 48 hours beside a fire while playing countless games of Uno.
There was "Taking me and picking me up at camp." She didn't realize that, as I drove away, I bawled like a child being left at daycare for the first time.
I remember, when I opened the jar, I sat and read each and every one of her notes. I've done so several times over the last 12 months and probably will for years to come. When I can no longer see the notes, I'll probably have someone read them to me. Each one takes me back to a special place in my heart.
Another gift of no expense was received by my oldest brother recently when he was able to meet, for the first time, our late father's best friend from high school. He had been invited by a relative of the now 85-year-old man to a family reunion over Thanksgiving. The two sat and talked for hours. The man's son had recorded a couple of hours of his father sharing stories from the past, making somewhat of a documentary of his life while showing places where he had grown up, such as houses, schools, playgrounds, etc.
I cannot wait to receive a copy of the CD, which I understand has several stories about my father, who passed away on Christmas Eve 25 years ago.
I regret not thinking of doing something similar while my father was still alive, but, of course, I never planned on losing him when I did. But, you'd better believe I'm going to be playing the role of Martin Scorsese soon as I direct my next and first film. It will be about my mother's life and her stories that perhaps my kids can one day share with their grandkids.
It may have taken the better part of half a century to realize as much, but I now understand, more than ever, the saying that the best things in life are indeed free.