I didn't know when I trimmed the tree with my kids last year that it would be the last time. If I had I would have taken more time about it and spent every second absorbing each bauble and ball as they were hung and each piece of tinsel wound around the branches. Enjoyed the laughs and the fights to keep the cat from climbing the tree and playing with the balls as they were hung. I would have cherished that last act of placing the star at the very top as I have done for around 23 years as a father. Sure the boys have generally not been around for the past few years to help or join in the family thing and the truth is that the girls are getting older now two with the youngest now fourteen.
Still, this year, for the first time since I have been a father I wasn't around to do that thing that maybe fathers should do and it has induced a sense of melancholy. Not overwhelming, just the type that hides in the shadows and refuses to show itself fully. A slight sense of forboding like an ill wind, or the shiver that runs up and down the spine occasionally. An uneasiness that when you turn to face it full on, ducks away like a shadow in sunshine, still there, just less evident.
The best way to look at this is that it is simply another phase of life, not one for regret but one for pleasant memories and the forging perhaps of new traditions. The only thing I'm sure of is that I will be writing more about this Christmas as an absent father.