This is a Christmas memory I will never forget
By Susie Sharp
My daddy, Manuel Oracion Jr., died in May of 1967 — just days before his 40th birthday. He had open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to replace a defective valve in his heart. The surgery was successful, but the valve didn’t fix his heart problems, which we now believe were a result of childhood rheumatic fever.
My mother, Betty Oracion, was widowed at the age of 37. She and daddy had six children, Debbie, Pam, Susie, Vance, Tim and Paula — all between the ages of 6 to 15 years.
Daddy was hired as a mail carrier for the U.S. Post Office at the age of 19, and my mom was a full-time homemaker until sometime later she took a part-time position with a school for children with intellectual disabilities here in Roswell. Awhile after daddy’s passing my mother enrolled in the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell program for dental assistants. Mom would go to school all day and work during the evenings. Needless to say, life was never dull or easy, but somehow our mother always managed to persevere. We all know now that she was our “glue” — she managed to keep our family together. Yes, we remember her tears, but never, ever do we remember mom feeling sorry for herself. Mom did everything within her power to keep things just as they had been before daddy’s passing. She was so much more than just a tough cookie; she was a tiny dynamo!
Now my Christmas story … that first Christmas without daddy could have been so terribly sad, but not one of the six of us remember it that way.
We woke up Christmas morning and found that Santa had come just as he always had! Santa had delivered exactly what we’d asked for and more. We celebrated Christmas just like we always did, the only difference was that daddy wasn’t with us.
During Christmas mass some of us noticed mom crying softly, we knew she didn’t want us to see her tears. Our mom’s favorite holiday has always been Christmas. She loves everything about it: the tree, the lights, the excitement, the music; I could go on and on.
I am a grown woman with adult children of my own now. I understand now how incredibly difficult it had to have been for my mom to have made it through that first Christmas without her husband, our daddy. She did it with such love and devotion; absolutely no self-pity. Every Christmas morning since daddy’s passing, I’m reminded of a love that has continued and a “first” Christmas that could have been so very different. Yes, my mom is a remarkable woman; she will always and forever be our Santa Claus!
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