Christmas in August

by Rod Smith

My last Christmas with my father was in August 1994. We were in a car. He began to sing, without the tattered red robe and cotton wool beard, “Christmas comes but once a year…” We twisted down towards Bluff Road and the car became a holy place. I heard him sing again of “the little laddie who didn’t have a daddy” who went home to play with “last year’s broken toys.” This time, he sang it more sweetly and more reverently than I had ever heard.

I cannot shake myself of the serenity in the car and the gentleness in his voice or the sight of his sharp blue eyes against the tanned face, white hair resting on the collar of his habitually-worn blue cardigan. He was smaller than I had ever noticed, hunched, or curled into the corner of the car seat, as if trying to occupy less and less room.

He sang innocently to me, and I believed to every child, with a faulty frail voice embodying hope born of humility. And it was a beautiful and holy moment—one for which an adult son might long.

Three weeks later he was dead.

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