The night Dad saved Christmas

Rick Ryckeley's picture

“Dad, what do you want for Christmas?” is the question kids across this country are asking. Forty-six years ago I asked my Dad that same question.

His answer was, “Son, always remember, if you have your health you have everything. But, if you have everything and don’t have good health you really have nothing. All I want is to spend the whole day with you and the rest of the family.”

I was 5 years old at the time. Now, 46 years later, those words have come home to roost in a way I never could imagine.

That was the same year that my three brothers and I thought we heard Santa Claus and his reindeer on our roof. It was also the only time it has snowed in Georgia on Christmas Eve.

We yelled for Mom as the sound of sleigh bells got nearer and the sound of someone walking on the roof got louder. She came in the room and said, “Kids, sounds like Santa is here; better go to sleep, ‘cause if you’re awake he won’t leave you any presents.”

At that moment we heard a loud scream and a thud outside the bedroom window. We hurried off to bed as Mom hurried outside to find out what all the noise was.

The next day, Mom did not talk about what or who had made the noise, or how Dad broke his ankle. But we all knew; the great secret was out. Santa Claus had fallen off our roof and Dad saved Christmas by catching him, breaking his ankle in the process. If you have your health you have everything.

Dad, when you’re up on the roof this Christmas Eve, helping the fat man in the red suit out of his sleigh, take a look inside your chimney.

If you see something black and shiny, Santa is not the only thing that needs to go down your chimney. You need to call a chimney sweep to clean the creosote off the walls of your chimney.

A friend of mine heats his entire house with a wood-burning stove. I know he’s the exception to the rule, using a wood stove for heat instead of a switch on the wall, but he likes the exercise.

As the temperature drops, many families will be using fireplaces, wood stoves, and space heaters for the first time. These heating sources are less expensive to buy, install, and far less expensive to run than conventional central heating systems.

Because of increases in fuel, they have become extremely popular and can also be extremely dangerous.

My friend calls a chimney sweep every year to clean the creosote off the inside of his chimney. “A fire can start with just 1/8 inch of creosote built up on the inside lining of the chimney walls. This amount can collect with just one year of use. Creosote can start a chimney fire which can burn at temperatures over 3,000 degrees. This high temperature can damage or destroy most chimney, fireplaces, or stoves.”

He told me to shine a flash light up my chimney. If I see a black shiny substance, I need to get my chimney cleaned – at least once a year.

Dad doesn’t stomp on roofs anymore. Those days have long passed. He has since retired and moved away to Florida. From the balcony of his condo, he sits and enjoys reading as he listens to the waves of the Gulf come crashing in.

He had cataract surgery last month on his left eye. Now he can see things far away clear as a bell. Last week, he had the right eye done; things did not go so well. My Dad can’t read anymore. “If you have your health you have everything,” is what he said to me so many years ago. “If you don’t, you have nothing.”

This holiday season I’m thankful for my health. I have two good eyes to see The Wife, two strong arms to hug her, and two fast legs to run to her when she calls for help.

“Dad, what do you want for Christmas?” my son asked. I said, “All I want to do is spend the whole day with you.”

He has asked that same question now for the last 10 years, and every year I have given him the same answer. Last week my son asked the same question again, but this year I gave him a different answer.

I said, “Son, all I want for Christmas is for your granddad to be able to read this story.”

Merry Christmas, Dad; hope you can see me soon.

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