Uncle Leonard

Third place: Maryann Lepovsky, 65, of Lucinda, Pa.

All the lights were out in town except for the bright orange Rexall sign on the corner drugstore. The soft snow as falling onto the frozen ground covering the grass and trees with a layer of fine angel hair. The date was Dec. 23, 1966. The peace and tranquility on our Pennsylvania farm was a far cry from the raging turmoil and blood shed in the far away lands of the Far East.

“Mommy, why does Daddy have to be away?”

“Well Joey, Daddy is a brave soldier doing his duty for our country.”

How do you ever explain war to a five-year-old when we don’t understand it ourselves?

Dave left when Joey was four-year-old. This being his first Christmas without Daddy brought an array of questions. I thought it best to wait out the tour of duty and bring Joey b back to our hometown to be with family, both for him and for me.

“Will Daddy be home to take me to see Santa Claus?”

“Tomorrow, you, Papa and I have a date to see Santa. It will be so special to take Papa with us.”

Santa in our small town has always been Uncle Leonard. I can recall the excitement I experience every Christmas Eve morning as Papa took me to whisper in Santa’s ear what I wanted him to bring me. I always got what I asked for. The fact that Santa was my father’s big brother may have had something to do with it.

When is Daddy coming home?” cried Joey.

Choking back my tears I whispered, “Soon, Joey, when his job is done.”

The next morning Joey anxiously ran to the old pick-up with Pap to see Santa.

“Hey, wait for me” I shouted.

Joey was not shy in telling Santa he wanted a Tonka dump truck. I couldn’t help notice the special squeeze he gave Joey and the wink he gave Papa. Seeing the joyful spirit Santa was in, I went to him, sat on his knee and whispered in his ear, “Bring David home for us.”

While watching my family on Christmas morning, I fought back tears for my longing to be in David’s arms.

We were all startled by a loud knock on the door.

“Who ever could that be at 6:30 in the morning? Maria, answer that, I have my hands full in the kitchen,” Mom called out.

Seeing the red suit, I blurted out, “Uncle Leonard, what are you doing here?” Then whispering, “Joey got his truck.” But Santa kept standing there just looking at me when noticed tears in his eyes and it wasn’t Uncle Leonard.

“David is that you?” I cried.

“Are you going to help your wounded soldier with his crutches or just let me freeze out here in the snow little lady?”

That Christmas was the best Christmas of our lives. Communication was not what it is today. David was wounded, spent a short time the Army hospital and was shipped stateside to continue his recuperation.

The child lives within all of us if we allow it to. I still like to believe Uncle Leonard had something to do with making my Christmas wish come true that year.

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