Last Wednesday was Christmas Day, and so much has changed since last December, when my family gathered in DeLand to celebrate the birth of Bethlehem's Baby.
The Dickson family has always embraced and looked to the hope and joy the birth of the Christ child represents. I'm sure there will be a little less joy and a few tears around the table today. There was an empty chair at the table and a little less laughter as we had our first Christmas without my dad, who, as most of you know, passed away earlier this year.
But in the Christ child we have the hope that our separation is only temporary and that we will again be reunited with those we love.
So many memories of a lifetime of Christmases come pouring back as I write this column.
I think of the sacrifices my parents made working extra hours and denying things for themselves so that we kids could get many of the gifts we wanted.
Many of my Christmases were filled with gifts I could use in my athletic endeavors. Somewhere in an old photo album there's a picture of me at the age 4 with a football under my arm, standing next to an inflatable Popeye punching bag.
Through the years there were more footballs and football equipment as well as basketballs, tennis rackets, and even a ping pong table and a BB gun.
And, no, I didn't shoot my eye out, but I did manage to put a hole in the kitchen window that first long ago Christmas morning.
I have no BB guns, footballs or ping pong tables to give our local coaches and players. But, if I had the magic of giving certain gifts, I have a list of things I'd like to pass along to those players and coaches that are such a vital part of my job.
My first gift would go to the Crestview football team. I would give the Bulldogs another win over Niceville in 2014.
Along with the win over the Eagles, I would give Bulldog football coach Tim Hatten and his crew a District 1-7A championship and a long run into the playoffs next fall.
I also would give Hatten a long and productive stay with the Bulldogs.
My next gift would go to Baker football coach Matt Brunson and his Gator team. And I also would give the Gators a championship.
For Crestview volleyball coach and girls basketball coach Kathy Combest, I would give a little patience to deal with dreadfully young teams.
I would give first-year Bulldog boys basketball coach Greg Watson a strong showing in a tough district this year.
I would give Crestview basketball star Ronnie Baylark the college of his dreams, where he could continue his playing career.
I would give former Crestview High School baseball star Dakota Dean, who is now a freshman at Louisiana State, all the success his older brother, Blake, had while playing for the Tigers.
I would give former Baker basketball star Chad Donley and his Liberty University teammates another opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.
If I could, I would give former Laurel Hill basketball star Jeff Reese a healthy heart so he could again play the game he loves. I would give Jeff's older brother, Brad, continued success playing basketball in Europe. I really would love to give Brad the gift of playing in the National Basketball Association.
Legend has it that Santa's gift bag is bottomless so he doesn't have to worry about running out of space as he takes gifts to little boys and girls around the world.
Since I'm not Santa, and my space is limited, I only have a couple of more gifts I would like to give.
I would give the gift of love to all the athletes, coaches and fans that make this job such a pleasure. I would also give shared memories to last a lifetime with special teammates and those you love.
Finally, I would give us all the gift of peace on earth and good will to men that the angels outside of Bethlehem proclaimed 2,000 years ago.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.