This story first appeared on the front page of the Mansfield News Journal Christmas Eve 2001
Christmas Day 2000
Timmy’s Red Fire Truck
By Tim Davis
I faced the most difficult task today—Christmas without my son. I now realize that the pain of losing Timmy becomes deeper every day. Teresa and I attempted to do our usual Christmas celebration. I say attempted, because I fear we failed miserably. Timmy’s empty chair, the absence of his voice and laughter, are all too evident on this day.
Teresa and the boys and I visited his grave on Christmas Eve. It was bitterly cold. The wind howled around us. We stood together and held hands around him. We prayed and cried. My sister Judy, along with her girls Annie and Katie, had placed a wreath by his marker. We added a small live decorated Christmas tree. The boys and I will plant it in our woods this spring.
On Christmas morning Tommy and Tad woke early. They are still excited to see what “Santa” has brought. Torrey, being 18, grudgingly got up earlier than normal for the Christmas morning ritual. Since they were very young, Teresa and I would have them sit at the top of the stairs, out of view of the Christmas room. I would then pick out a toy and play with it. None of them can see what I’m doing, but the sounds make their imaginations spin. This year, as before, the boys were teased in this fashion. I must admit my heart was not in it. All I could think of was that there were three boys on the stairs instead of four. My heart ached with the thought. I can honestly say I have never felt such sadness.
After the presents were opened and the boys were occupied with their gifts, I bundled up and walked down to our barn. The chickens, goats and rabbits need to be fed even on Christmas. As I entered the barn, I discovered water on the ground next to the spigot. Frozen pipe! I crossed the fence in an attempt to find the source of the leak. While crossing, I happened to look up into the loft. There, sitting on the edge, was Timmy’s toy red fire truck. It was one of his first presents from Santa. He used to spend hours riding that little pedal truck around the house.
I stood and stared at it. I had not seen it in years; in fact, I had forgotten it was even up there. The stairs were lowered, so I climbed to the loft and crouched under the roof next to his treasure. The once shiny new Christmas morning surprise now sat dull, dented, and covered in dust and cobwebs. I tested the rusted little bell on the hood. It rang dutifully. The sound took me back to a Christmas morning so many years ago—an excited little boy laughing and pedaling his new truck through the house, swerving in and out of furniture, ringing the bell with fascination. And for a moment, just a moment, I could hear his little boy voice calling, “Watch me Daddy! See how fast I can go!” The shadowy vision fades, and, despite my efforts to save it, disappears into the cold air. I’m back in the deserted and dark barn loft. Timmy’s fire truck sits alone, still and empty, a poignant reminder of happier times and a cherished child, now lost.
The frozen barn door creaks as it closes behind me. As I walk to the house I reflect on how Christmas has changed for me. No, Christmas may never be the happy reminiscent time that it once was. In fact, it will now be a day in which Timmy’s absence is most keenly felt and my memories filled with the sting of what will never be again. The cozy warmth of family gathered for Christmas will be lessened by the empty chair once filled by a son. And yet in a much deeper way Christmas is more precious to me—more precious because of a little red fire truck.
Yes, the little truck has deteriorated from its original perfect state, and time will continue to erode the paint and metal. Not so for my son! For Timmy, the opposite has occurred. The debilitating effect of aberrant physiology has ended. He is, in fact, now brand new, perfect and eternal. My son even now beholds the face of God, waiting for me. And for a moment, just a moment, I can hear him calling to me, “Watch me Dad. See how fast I can go!”
Tim Davis Sr.