NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano watches action from the bench during the 1985 season. © Roger W Winstead

Happy New Year from the Valvanos

Written by Jamie Valvano

One of my favorite holiday photos is of my Dad standing in front of a Christmas tree with the lining of his pockets clearly displaying he was flat broke.  This was a yearly gag that he would stage on December 25th in response to my Mom’s shopping habits.  My sisters and I were certainly spoiled rotten, but I cannot recall a single present that was underneath the tree.  Instead, the images of loved ones gathered together to enjoy a traditional Valvano feast bring meaning to this time of year for me.

The holidays and the start of a new year help clarify the many blessings in our lives, but at the same time, they uncover bittersweet longings for those we miss.  You are not alone if you found yourself running ragged trying to create the perfect family memories.  The truth is that the most precious gift we can offer is our presence.  I would give anything for a single hour with my Father, and I know exactly what we would do.  I would snuggle up against him on the couch and listen to him read from an enormous book of poetry.  My Father was an avid reader, and he would often recite some antiquated verse at the dinner table.  For my 16th birthday, he gave me a small book of Shakespearean sonnets.  The inscription read, “To my second daughter and eternalsummer. Love, Dad.”  I can still recall every word to our beloved Sonnet 18.

My family wondered what to buy my Dad for the last holiday we spent together.  As he grew weaker, he spent sleepless nights buying gadgets from the Home Shopping Network.  He proudly displayed the attachment to the vacuum that would trim your hair, and elaborate treats were created in his SnackMaster grill for anyone that came to the house.  Although these items gave us a good laugh, the only time I saw my Father’s face light up was when he spent time with a loved one.  He openly shared his gratitude with every person that made the effort to see him.

As I gaze at that silly photograph of my Dad from Christmas morning, a clear message speaks to me.  There is nothing money can buy that will ever replace the treasured time you spend with your family.  Perhaps this year, you can work less and hug more.  As we greet 2016, you will find me curled up with a book of poetry and my memories of my Dad.  Happy New Year from my family to yours.