Remembering the money I spent last Christmas on gifts for Dad at that same market, I asked "think I can get my money back?" before mumbling "gallows humor."
It probably wasn't funny to my friends and if anything, I might have made them uncomfortable. Fortunately the subject was changed for us as the hordes of Christmas shoppers pushed us through the market like leaves floating in a strong current.
Briefly separated, I was left thinking about how different this Christmas will be without my sweet Dad.
Last Christmas, I went to one of Dad's doctor's appointments with him and my mother. He seemed to be doing well and proudly posed in front of a hospital sign featuring his terrific specialist. Dad's breathing was pretty good and he was able to walk longer distances than he had in recent history. I was thrilled.
But my mother was pessimistic. At the time, I was frustrated, worried that her mindset would affect Dad negatively. I believed that Dad could have more good years of life if he would just stick to the program laid out by his team of specialists.
I should have given Mom more credit, of course. She was the one who saw Dad's struggles each day. It was Mom who cooked him healthy food and helped him stick to the complex regimen of medications. She listened to him talk about his ailments, accompanied him to his many doctors' appointments and made sure he followed up as ordered. It was easy for me to believe Dad could be OK.
Mom wanted that too, but she was more acutely aware of Dad's reality.
I was the adult daughter who breezed in, gave hugs, issued pronouncements I thought would be uplifting, and then left to resume my own comparatively easy life. Mom was being realistic and in the process, trying to prepare her daughter for a rapidly approaching, unavoidable life change.
There are many days I feel guilty for the weight Mom carried while I bore none.
I didn't buy a single thing in the Christmas market this year. Nothing seemed right. No present I could buy will fill the hole in my dear mother's heart. The best I can do is be present, lavish her with love and attention, and to try to find a way to properly celebrate the man who was for many years a gift to us.
Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate.