I face the same dilemma every Christmas.
I have absolutely no idea what I can give my parents to show them how much I cherish who they are and what they have done in my life.
I know that Christmas isn’t about presents. But in my life, I’ve come to use Christmas gifts as a way for telling people I love that they are truly valued. It’s not about what the gift costs, it’s more about showing someone you know who they are inside, or perhaps about capturing a special moment from the past. Like a few years ago when I bought my brother a box of Pez dispensers that looked like the members of KISS. But I digress.
In recent years, particularly since my children were born, I’ve come to know and love my mother and father more than I ever have in my life. Yet in this new understanding and appreciation of who they are, it’s become more and more difficult to celebrate them at Christmas time.
We often hear people talk about the feelings they have for the most special people in their lives. How friends have always “been there” for them, whatever that means. How family is the “foundation” for everything, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room with cousin so and so or aunt this and that. Or, even how we should eject from our lives anyone we care for who dares not agree with us.
Truly, I understand the amazing rarity that is my relationship with my parents. But I often take it for granted. I tire of people constantly blaming their own failures and bad decisions on mom and dad, as if everyone has what I have. I’m insulted when other women lament becoming like their mothers. I could only wish!
This problem of not being able to pay my folks the proper appreciation has been growing year by year. Mostly because I have discovered that I need their love as much as an adult and parent as I ever did growing up.
I know now that it is my parents, not the friends I once relied on, who are truly my support and strength. It was the two of them who spread the net under my family when finances threatened ruin. It was they who cried with me as I struggled through severe post-partum depression. It was mom and dad who rushed to my side when I had my heart attack, to hold my hand, hold my children and hold up my husband. No. One. Else.
And sadly, I realize with each passing day, that I will not have the blessing of their presence forever.
They challenge me, but respect my choices. They help me, but do not provide me a crutch to rest on. They pray for me, but do not expect God to forget my transgressions. I fight them, yet they stay at my side, unlike so many who have tired of my battles and brokenness.
They are indeed the ultimate gifts, equalled only by my own children and husband. And this Christmas, in my attempts to repay all they have done for me since I’ve supposedly graduated to adulthood, I’ll likely find my dad another Pittsburgh Steelers something, and my mom another hand bag or piece of jewelry she doesn’t really need.
I know they know these things are only symbols. That how I feel is so much more than I could ever express with my limited funds or mere human words.
But year after year, I’ll continue to look and pray for some thing or some way I can show them the unlimited value of the gifts they give me everyday of my life.