My loved ones gathered in the living room at my parents' home to open Christmas gifts. Before Christmas as 2012 came to a close, my parents requested that my brother, Trent, and I make it to their home in Robins, Iowa, for a last holiday celebration as a family under a roof that they had put their blood, sweat and tears into shaping.
My dad's liver is failing. He takes care of my mom 24/7 because she is battling scleroderma. Because my dad needs a transplant, and the care my mother requires, my brother and I were told this would be the last Christmas as a family in our family home. Sometime in 2013 they will be moving to an independent living facility in Iowa City, Iowa.
Knowing this didn't curtail our joy or appreciation of being together. My girlfriend, Bretta, met my parents for the first time. My brother also brought his girlfriend Melanie, over for the first time and also my nephew so that his grandparents could feel like grandparents.
They haven't had that opportunity much. And it became a more fleeting feeling after my ex-wife, Jen, moved to Sweden with my only child, Gabriel, after we celebrated Christmas with them in 2010.
Unfortunately, my son couldn't join the celebration.
However, I was excited for my parents to open their gifts. I gave them framed photos of my brother and I and of myself and my son taken during my visit to Sweden at the end of summer in 2012. My mother opened the photo of my brother and myself. Smiles from my mom and dad appeared.
Then, all of us sat and watched as my dad opened the gift showing my son and I. This was his reaction:
It hurt. It continues to hurt. And it's a moment in my life I will never forget.
My dad was never one to show a ton of emotion in front of my brother and I, nor the people close to us. He broke down. He became more human to me -- not just a father who teaches, leads and works for his family.