Holiday thoughts

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It was the worst Christmas of my life. My 21-year-old son and I had quarreled and were estranged for the first time.

A few days earlier, I had called him seeking a reconciliation, but it was no use. I woke up Christmas morning feeling distraught. After breakfast, I left my Manhattan apartment and walked in the bitter cold to the corner of Lexington Avenue and 86th Street.

A man in tattered clothes stood shivering in front of a coffee shop. I approached him and asked what I could do. He asked me for a dollar so he could have coffee. I gave him quite a bit more than that. He began to cry and thanked me repeatedly.

I went home feeling somewhat better. I knew I had only helped the man for perhaps a few hours, but thinking about his situation helped to put mine in perspective.

My son and I remained estranged for some months. One evening a radio station for which I did some work invited me to a party at a nightclub in the theater district.

The place was dark and crowded. I went to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. I chatted with some people. Waiters were moving about the room offering canapes on trays. As I reached for something to eat, the waiter carrying the tray said, "Hi, Dad." My son, who had been working in catering jobs, had been hired for the party. He agreed to have dinner with me when the party ended. We went out, talked things over and were reconciled.

That happened more than 10 years ago. We have never let it happen again.

In the ensuing years, we have been very close. He has been my traveling companion on a number of occasions. We have enjoyed South Beach together. He has come with me to California and joined me at some travel conventions in the Caribbean.

This holiday, he and his younger brother and sister will be with me, and we will exchange many gifts and much love.

I haven't forgotten the Christmas I spent without him. And I haven't forgotten the man standing in the cold on Christmas morning who cried because a stranger gave him more than he expected or the evening, when my son and I unexpectedly met and worked out our problems.

Whatever else happens in my business or personal life, I will remember these moments and, so long as my family is together and in good health, I will count myself the most fortunate of men.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season. And as we head toward the final year of the century, let me add my wishes for a healthy and happy 1999.

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