By Jack Cumming

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

It was Christmas 2020, the year of the pandemic. Bob Santos was immersed in his Kindle with the life of Alexander the Great. He was settled into his favorite recliner. Across the room, an electric fire crackled in the credenza that doubled as a fireplace and TV Stand. It had arrived recently from Costco, a gift from his children.

Bob’s eyes grew bleary. It might be his age. After all, he was 92. He felt fortunate to be living at Albemarle-on-the-Lake Retirement Community. He and his wife, who had died the previous year, had lived nearby for over 50 years. A knock on the door signaled the arrival of his Christmas dinner. There would be no gathering this year. It was a year like no other.

Bob lifted himself from his chair, put on his mask, and opened the door. The conversation was brief. The employee had left his Christmas Dinner on the table by the door and was already halfway down the hall. “Thank you,” said Bob.

“No problem,” came the terse over-the-shoulder response.

Bob stowed the dinner in the little kitchenette. He was not ready to eat. He just wasn’t hungry. He returned to his seat, put his head back, and relaxed. His thoughts lingered on the year just passing. It had been a year like no other. First, the sudden shock of COVID-19, then economic collapse. And toward the end, an election that shook him to his core. He was surprised that he still cared so much.

Suddenly, his reverie was interrupted as the television sprang to life, and his grandson, Jim, surrounded by his wife and young children appeared on the screen. Another technological innovation. Bob had authorized a drop-in feature that allowed family and friends to drop in for a visit at any time. They would suddenly, disconcertingly appear on his living room TV. He learned he’d best be always dressed for company when he was in the room.

“Hi, Gramps,” said little Kathy, his four-year-old great-granddaughter.

“Hi back-atcha,” he responded. The visit was warm and blessedly short.

“Are you okay,” Kathy’s mother wanted to know.

“I’m still here,” Bob responded. Again the conversation was short. Bob didn’t have much in common with these much younger family members. Still, it lifted his spirits and made him feel loved. He never would have thought that he would ever live long enough to be a great-grandfather. Heck, he never thought he would live to see the year 2020.

Returning to the reverie of the day and the moment, Bob reflected on how the world had changed and, yet, had not changed, since the time when he was little Kathy’s age. He remembered that Christmas from long ago when he, too, was just four. His parents, now long gone, had set up the Christmas tree in the night. As Bob awoke that morning long ago, he crept down the stairs in his Doctor Denton PJs . . . the ones with the flap in the back.

When the living room came into view, young Bob saw the colored lights of the Christmas tree. Under the tree, the presents were wrapped. It was magical. The Great Depression had taken his father’s job, but Christmas was special. Of course, Bob didn’t know this at the time. Only later did he realize the love his parents had had for him and for his sisters. Remembering, Bob thought fleetingly of the challenged 2020 households with many fathers looking for work. Tears welled in his eyes remembering his Dad and the love of his parents.

In that Christmas long ago, his parents had buried their own cares to give their children the wonder that Christmas is through the ages. Bob cherished the Buddy-L truck that was his Christmas treasure. He reckoned in his head. “It must have been 1932,” he thought.  How long ago it now seemed, and yet the bonds of family love have persisted through the years. Everything has changed but nothing has changed. Some things can never change.

Christmas brings joy to those who give and those who receive alike. Christmas brings promise. It brings hope. It restores family. And it lifts our spirit. Even in the depths of the Great Depression. Even in a year of pandemic upheaval.

Sitting in his recliner, letting his mind roam freely, Bob reflected on those loved ones from that year of 1932, so long ago. Almost all had gone before. Now there were these new loved ones and new friends. Bob was no longer the youngest.

He glanced toward the window. The lake had frozen over, and children were skating as he himself had done years before. The truth of his reality came home to him.

Life’s cycle of birth and renewal continues. “Merry Christmas, Bob,” he thought to himself. At age 92, Bob had to be his own company. He enjoyed his thoughts. He knew that he was truly blessed. It was a very Happy Christmas.