“Why spend the holidays at a resort?” Even over the phone, I could see my urban father’s quizzically raised eyebrows. “There’s so much more to do right here in New York.” But in spite of his muttered objections, my sisters and I organized a Christmas/Hanukkah reunion in Florida. Holidays with the cousins would be splendid, we agreed. “Staying at a hotel all week sounds dreary,” my father countered. “Are there any museums nearby? Any sights to see?”
“I’m afraid he’ll just grumble all week,” one sister confided. “It will be like having Scrooge along for the holidays.”
However, once we were ensconced in Floridian paradise, Dad disappeared into a whirlwind of activities. On our very first day, he won a silver medal in the archery tournament before joining my step-mom for a leisurely dip in the pool. “Have you tried the iced cappuccino?” he asked. “And don’t miss the chocolate brioche.”
At breakfast the next morning, my seven-year-old nephew Chris darted into an empty seat next to my dad. “My brother was mean to me,” he reported, snuggling against Grandpa’s shoulder. “Tell me all about it,” said Dad, offering a slice of toast. As Chris described the latest brotherly taunt, three-year-old Juliet climbed onto Grandpa’s lap. “One day, my sister was mean too,” she announced. Grandpa offered his sympathy to the injured parties as the older boys crowded around. One casually dipped a fork into his grandfather’s eggs, while another asked, “Grandpa, will you watch us water-ski? Will you come soon?” Yes, he certainly would. And when a son-in-law needed a golf partner or an armchair stock analyst, Dad was ready. He was everywhere, eager to talk college admissions with my teenage daughter and office politics with my sister.
Later that day, I sat under a tree, drinking ice water and seeking respite from the blazing sun. “I can’t possibly play tennis in this weather,” I said, eyeing the courts wistfully.
“Why don’t we play when it’s cooler?” Dad offered.
And though I know he preferred to sleep late, he joined me for ground strokes and volleys each morning before breakfast.
In the end, our family’s celebration had little to do with a Christmas tree or a menorah. But we did have a clear choice for most-Santa-like vacationer. My sister needn’t have worried that Dad would dampen our spirits. In fact, he brought his good will to every one of us—tending to our flailing backhands, hurt feelings, jumbled career paths and everything in between.