By Eric Tomei —

This is a season to reflect on things that matter the most. Here are three things that I do to remember my dad.

1. Celebrate the little things he did for us.

When I was about 10 years old, and my sisters were young, my dad built an ice skating rink in the backyard one Christmas season. One of us must have said to him that it would be cool to have one. My dad, an engineer, thought he would take on this challenge and he did. He dug out enough snow in our backyard, but not so much that you could see the grass. Then he turned on the sprinkler in the middle of winter to freeze the rink. Mother Nature took care of the rest; two days later, we had a beautiful and free ice skating rink to skate on. We thought we were the cool kids on the block. I will always remember that because my Dad went out to create something for his kids while completely freezing his butt off in the process.

2. Establish new traditions (or rework old ones) that honor him.

We have always had Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas Eve, and then we all open presents by the tree after that. When my father died in 2006, we didn’t know what we were going to do on Christmas Eve. Should we continue with the same tradition? Should we go out to eat as a family? Whether to maintain or change traditions is truly an individual choice with each family. It is what FEELS right for you and your family. We ultimately decided that we had gone through so much change that year, that we all wanted to pitch in and help with Christmas Eve dinner and keep it exactly the same. For our family, it was the right decision and we have continued that ever since.

3. Remember him while we’re having fun.

My dad and my mom were great at playing Santa Claus for my two sisters and me when we were little. They stayed up late on Christmas Eve and then got up the next morning to open up presents with us. My guess is they survived it by drinking a lot of coffee! It was the only time during the year that I remember showing my dad any kind of affection — even it was just a hand shake or a high five. I remember how much fun Christmas morning was, and he was a big part of that. I think he had fun too, eating the cookies that Santa left out!

Holidays can be challenging times for those of us who have lost a loved one. It makes a difference for me to reflect and be grateful for the time I had with my dad.

Eric Tomei can be reached at

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Eric Tomei

Eric Tomei is a physical therapist residing in the metro Detroit area. He has a B.A. in Psychology, a B.S. in Health Sciences and a masters degree in physical therapy from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. I Miss My Dad…is his first book with the hopes of uniting everyone who has lost a Dad or loved one to share their stories. His mission is to let people know that they are not alone in dealing with the loss of a loved one and you will always have a friend to talk to. He has a passion for charity work as 15% of each book sold will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. His goal is to raise $1 million for this charity through donations and the sale of I Miss My Dad… Eric appeared on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart with hosts Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, to discuss Father’s Day Without a Father. To listen to this show, go to the following link:

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