A Christmas Wreath for Frank
The smell of fresh pastries - including irresistible cherry rolls - wafted from the corner Mrs. Powell's Bakery to my nose in the Manhattan Town Center mall a couple weekends ago.
My mother and I, after tromping from store to store in hopes of satisfying Christmas lists, decided it was time for a break.
We sat on a bench that was not too far from the bakery.
After a short spell, my mind started to wander as I watched people stop by for treats that they didn't really need - but hey, it's the holiday season.
Almost in a trance, I started to daydream as I continued to focus on the little bakery that has been a mainstay in the mall since its inception.
And then, out of nowhere, it happened.
Tears started to form in my eyes as memories filled my head.
How on Earth could a pastry shop evoke such powerful emotions?
It reminded me of someone who for many years would have been on that bench right there with us.
It brought back memories of Dad, the guy who was present for shopping trip after shopping trip to Manhattan, roughly an hour's drive from our hometown.
One year, with Christmas nearly upon us and Mom, Dad and I frantically trying to take care of that last-minute shopping, we walked past that corner bakery.
As store employees from various other mall shops were pulling down their uninviting chained gates that screamed "It's time for you to leave," the comforting smell of Mrs. Powell's baked goods was a far better host.
Workers there still had warm and gooey merchandise to sell - and for half price. Sticky buns shaped to form a wreath were on sale: Buy one, get one free.
With gatherings on our plate in the coming days, we took those pastries home to share with more loved ones.
It's been more than three years since Frank Linenberger died. Coping with his loss, as I'm sure is the case with many people, has improved with time. Much of the year is spent fondly remembering from time to time something he did or something he said - or learning things about him from others I didn't already know.
But then come those other times - Father's Day, for instance - when time just can't become that magic elixir.
And then there's Christmastime, when happiness and sorrow walk hand in hand.
As a Christian, it's the best time of year. As someone who enjoys the influx of fellowship with friends and family, it's the best time of year. As an avid tree trimmer, with as much Jayhawk Crimson and Blue as is humanly possible, it's the best time of year.
But as a person who can't share all of that with Dad anymore, it's the worst time of year.
Understand that I was blessed for 26 years to be around a happy-go-lucky guy whose heart was filled to the brim with compassion and love. And, I know that this time of year is even more difficult for so many others who didn't know their loved ones for a fraction of that time.
But a loved one is a loved one.
Here's hoping that you think of yours - both living and deceased - often this time of year.