By Joe Rector

Last week, I didn’t send in a column for the paper. Christmas was a hectic time for us, even more so than in years gone by. We planned to have new flooring laid in our house sometime around Thanksgiving, but a three-week delay in the product delivery meant the guys installing the stuff arrived the week before Christmas. They finished the job the day after Christmas.

Because of the workers’ presence, the removal of old flooring, the moving of furniture and “stuff,” and a thick layer of dust from cutting the boards, Amy and I decided not to put a tree up or put out any Christmas items. Yes, that was a bummer as the holiday just didn’t feel right.

We left for Gallatin to spend the holiday with our daughter and her family and our son. We arrived the Saturday before Christmas and were thankful to be out of the hubbub occurring in our house. Lacey contacted us on Sunday morning to let us know that grandson Madden was at the Urgent Care facility in Huntsville, Alabama, where her in-laws live. He tested positive for not only strep-throat but also the flu. We waited to see if he might feel better in a couple of days but then decided that we’d return to Knoxville on Christmas Eve. Our son Dallas spent Christmas with us. It was the first time in about 15 years that Amy and I have been in our home for the holiday.

Christmas was strange. I missed my daughter; it’s the first time we haven’t been together on that special day. We talked, but I certainly ached to have her around. I missed Madden too. It was the first Christmas we haven’t spent with him as well.

What I learned from this holiday season is that the most important ingredient to a good holiday season is “flexibility.” Families face all sorts of changes during this time of year. Sometimes flights are delayed or canceled. Maybe a winter storm hits and keeps folks from traveling to other cities or states to spend Christmas with families. Illness, minor or major, can also separate families during the most anticipated day of the year.

In any of those cases, people are disappointed, even broken hearted. Still, they have to figure out how to make the best of a not so perfect situation. That means enjoying the folks who are present. It also means that Christians celebrate the birth of a savior that symbolized the complete love of God.

Nobody ever expects things to derail, especially on Christmas. However, they will. The time will come when one of the persons we love so much is no longer with us. A pall is cast during the holiday, but we owe our other family members and friends the same love and joy that they’ve enjoyed for so many years.

If snow blocks our paths, we must adapt and share a wonderful holiday with those who are with us. Isn’t that part of the message of Christmas anyway?

Amy and I missed Lacey and Madden and Nick, but we enjoyed time with Dallas and being home for the first time in years. I hope that many more special days lie ahead and that I can spend them with my family and friends. Either way, I learned this year to be flexible and to adapt. It didn’t kill me, even though I always thought that a break with traditions would sure bring an end to the world.