December 20, 2015: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

The Christmas hand-off (in a bowling alley parking lot)
On the twelfth Day of Christmas....

We took a road trip to surprise my oldest son.

85.7 miles from our home in Denver to Zach's home of Fort Collins, Colorado.

My Partner in crime, Larry (a.k.a. father-in-law) accompanied me. I drove the first leg northward and he drove the last leg southbound. We have definitely become accustomed to our road trips together.

Until about noon on Sunday, this trip was unplanned. But as I have often found in life, it's the spontaneous, random acts that ultimately carry the most meaning.

Feelings from the heart are many times unplanned. Spurred by a word, memory, or observation while going through the daily motions of life, the gut and the heart are rarely wrong. It's just the practicality of the head that sometimes gets in the way.

As part of our Christmas weekend with the Denver kids, we enjoyed a Broadway show, along with dinner celebrations and gift openings. And although Zach, my now grown son, lives nearby in Fort Collins; he was too busy with his new job to join us.

Our Sunday plans included joining the other 25 million or so Star Wars fans this weekend in seeing the well anticipated movie opening. In preparation, Garrett bought the original six movies on-line. The Star Wars movie marathon began on Friday night and continued through Sunday afternoon.

I was flooded with memories of Zach and his brothers while watching these movies. Although all three boys loved everything Star Wars, with Zach it was a childhood obsession. Every character and battleship was an owned toy, book or guy that littered the floor of our toy room. Little Zach would beg to watch the Star Wars movies over and over on our VCR/TV combo that played continuously to its audience of tots.

This weekend I found myself sitting in Denver, enjoying Zach's favorite without him while staring at his unopened gifts under the Christmas tree. He and I exchanged a couple of texts on the 'good old days' with memories of favorite pod-racer and light-saber toys. But then I suddenly felt empty. The realization sunk in that Zach would be spending his first Christmas alone.

Zach's 2nd Christmas
This Friday will be Zach's 23rd Christmas. Being the first born, he enjoyed his first three Christmases as an only child and the rest, he was surrounded by his brothers and expansive family. Zach has always been with family on this favorite holiday.

With nine kids and 30 or so grand kids, my kids couldn't wait to spend Christmas with their Lane cousins and relatives. The floor would be filled with gifts for every grandchild and without an inch of counter space to spare for more food as the Lane's celebrated together.

My family was always near as well. There were trips to Iowa or Vegas and many holiday meals at our Omaha home with Aunt Joan playing Christmas carols on the piano, while dishes were washed and presents unwrapped.

But this year would be different for Zach. Year 23 brings his first year out of school and with the real job. And his job in the gun industry is very busy at Christmas (don't shoot your eye out?). He will work Christmas Eve and the Saturday after Christmas. Nestled in between is Christmas Day. With no time to spare, Zach will stay put in Fort Collins. And his family will be everywhere but there.

My heart sank at the thought.

A new first.

Although his gifts will be opened when his brothers joined us post-Christmas, I kept picturing him home alone on the day itself. No gifts to open. No Lane white elephant exchange. No Christmas stocking. No big Christmas feast with family.

So I made up my mind. I was going to make the drive and get him his gifts and some food for his own feast on Christmas Day. Not the same, but something to provide some extra cheer.

With Larry in tow, we set off to make the drive north. I decided to surprise Zach so he couldn't talk me out of it. And I knew he was in town as he was enjoying his company Christmas party. Another first.

A trip to a Fort Collins SuperTarget scored a mini Christmas tree, burgers, steak, mac n cheese,
mashed potatoes, bread, bacon wrapped peppers, and some Gatorade. One more stop at the liquor store resulted in Guiness and Breckenridge Ale. Desert.

And then the phone call to Zach.

Me: "Zach, where are you at?"

Zach: "My company Christmas party. Remember?"

Me: "Okay. Can you tell me where exactly? I have your presents here for you."

Zach: "Like in Fort Collins?"

And then he proceeded to give me directions. Another phone call later, he came out to the parking lot to meet us, asking why we were in Fort Collins. Explaining it was a 'destination Zach' trip, he was still a bit confused, but happy with his goodies to take home.

The smile on his face and the thank-you call later was all I needed as reinforcement on the decision. The spontaneous trip and time on the road was a night well spent.

Merry Christmas, Zach Lane!

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