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James R. Stout

Christmas Memories - Part 3 - 1980 - The Love Between a Father and a Son

            1980 – About a year prior to the Christmas of 1980 I accepted an offer to go to work for a company located in Dallas. The job went fairly well for about 6 months, but there were rumblings that the owner was in trouble and the company in jeopardy. By June of 1980 things had gotten bad. The last paycheck for that month bounced. There was a mass exit of employees. The manager who hired me along with the assistant manager resigned and ultimately started a business together. Two other main employees, both accountants, also resigned. I had made friends with one of our customers and he knew that things were going badly at the company. He offered me a sub-contract job that would last for a couple of months. I accepted. A bird in hand etc. By December of 1980 I was still doing sub-contract work for him, but things had slowed down to a crawl. I was barely making any money. We had moved from Irving, Texas to Garland, Texas (both are in the Dallas metroplex) so that I could be closer to where the jobs were. My wife had left her job and wasn’t working at the time. It was our plan to turn things around in January. I would seek a permanent position and if that meant having to move back to Houston, then so be it. My wife was willing to get a job as well, but it made sense to wait until after the holidays.

            We didn’t have much money for presents that year. We had decided to not buy anything for each other in order to save money. My wife was making homemade craft gifts for several of our loved ones. I started working on a recording project that I wanted to present to my Dad for Christmas. I didn’t have the greatest recording equipment, but the idea was doable. I wanted to record an “album” of songs that my Dad had always sung for us growing up. Most of them were country and western. These included some classic country hits such as “San Antonio Rose”, “Bouquet of Roses”, “Oh Baby Mine”, “Walking the Floor Over You”, “Pistol Packing Mama”, “Hey Good Looking”, “Detour”, “King of the Road”, and a rocking version of “In The Mood”. I spoke between some of the songs reminiscing about all the times that I had listened as Dad sang these songs and played his old 1929 Martin guitar. I gave a heartfelt dedication at the beginning and put it on tape that I loved Dad very much. The whole project was from the heart and then some. I finished the project in about two weeks.

            The weekend before Christmas I took my wife to her parents to spend the week with them. I would join them on Christmas Eve. I had a couple of jobs to finish on Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoon I was sitting in my truck working when I felt a slight “tickle” in my throat. Within an hour the tickle had turned into a raging fire. My throat felt like someone had taken sandpaper to it. I finished the job and went home to quickly pack and head out for my in-laws. The aspirin that I took didn’t help at all. Three hours later I pulled into my in-laws’ driveway and I was running a fever. I felt horrible. I barely remember Christmas Eve that year. I was very sick. Christmas morning, we drove to my parent’s house to spend Christmas day and night with them. I didn’t even bother trying to eat the Christmas meal that my mother had cooked. I just went to bed. I got up for a few minutes when it was time to open presents and I watched as Dad opened the box with the cassette copy of the album for him. I have no recollection of any gifts that I might have received.

            The next morning, I was awoken to the sounds of that album being played in my parent’s den. I stumbled into the room and Dad was sitting there listening to the album with Mom. Dad looked at me and there were tears in his eyes. He loved the album. For years to come he played it for anyone who came over to visit. He especially liked the spoken part at the beginning. I would end up having to make him two copies over the years because he wore them out. But on that morning, I was seriously ill. Dad said, “Why don’t you go to our doctor in Tomball? I’ll take you.” I explained that we just didn’t have the money for a doctor’s visit much less a prescription. He wouldn’t have it. He insisted I go and that they would pay the doctor and for any prescription. So, he took me to the doctor. It turned out I had a very bad sinus infection. That was actually good news because if it had been a cold or the flu, there wasn’t any drugs that could help. The doctor gave me a shot of penicillin right there in his office and a prescription. I don’t recall what drug it was, but I was glad to get any help. Six hours later my throat wasn’t hurting. By the time the next morning came around I felt like eating again. I understood why penicillin had been called “the miracle drug”.

            The album gift that I gave my Dad was something that he loved for the rest of his life. About two years before he died, he asked if I could put it on a CD for him so that he could listen to it in his car and home stereo. I was glad to do so. In return, my Dad gave me a great gift that year too. He didn’t think twice about helping me get the medicine that I needed. Even though that was not exactly a great time in my life, the fact is it was a very special Christmas. There was a lot of love in our house when I was growing up and that love only grew as I got older. I had the blessing of having my Dad in my life for another 36 years after that Christmas. Through it all my Dad was a loving father whose heart knew no bounds.

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