Christmas is a season of memories. A conversation with my daughter this week brought back a memory of one of the greatest gifts I ever received, the gift my father-in-law gave me on his last Christmas with us 10 years ago.
We were watching the movie “The Santa Clause” the other night. The scene came on where Charlie’s mom and her psychiatrist boyfriend Neil were discussing when they stopped believing in Santa. For each it was when they did not receive the gift that topped their lists one year. For her it was the board game “Mystery Date”, for him it was at the age of three when he did not get an Oscar Mayer Weinie Whistle. My daughter turned to me and Lisa and asked if we could remember not getting something we wanted as a child. My answer was, “I barely remember anything about Christmas as a child!” Lisa’s was, “I always got what I wanted.”
That truth about Lisa’s childhood has always amazed me. She was the youngest of four daughters in a home that was not wealthy. Neither her mom nor her dad ever made more than $50,000 a year in current dollars, and in fact made far less for most of their careers. There was a time when her dad worked two jobs to make ends meet. Nevertheless, when Christmas came the desired gifts always appeared. Chuck and Shirley Rehm loved their family and they loved Christmas. Two incredibly giving people found in Christmas the perfect opportunity to show their love.
I was the recipient of this love from the moment I joined the family, but the last Christmas present I received from my father-in-law showed his love in a special way. I had just moved into my new office and had decorated each room according to a theme. One of the rooms had a baseball theme, and I had seen a baseball bat hat rack available online. Bat handles were attached to a frame adorned with a baseball. I thought it looked cool and put it on my Christmas list.
I thought it would be a matter of simply ordering it online, but it was not that easy. It was out of stock and unavailable. Most people would have given up. Chuck Rehm was not most people. He decided to make one for me himself. He found a bat factory and bought some broken bats so he could use the handles. He needed a few more, so he fashioned additional bat handles on his lathe. He never played baseball or displayed any interest in the game but the handles he made were perfect. He cut wood to shape the frame, rounded the edge with a router and made two little four inch bats as accents. It was perfect.
He spent hours on that one gift. He did it simply because I had asked for it. He loved me, he had the skill to make it for me and the time to do it, so he made it. He did for me what he had been doing for his family his whole life. He put my desires ahead of his own.
Four months after that Christmas he was gone. He had severe heart disease that required surgery. There were complications and he never made it off the table. I lost my hero that day, but he left my life filled with reminders of the qualities that made him great. I think of those qualities when I look at the hat rack and pray that I can live up to his example- that I will love my family, serve my family and put their needs and desires ahead of my own, simply because I can.
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