Candy Cain pulled the car into the drive and pushed the remote to the garage door. Theirs was the only house on the block with no lights. It looked vacant. In a way, it was. Their last daughter had married three months ago and they were alone for the first time since they married, thirty years ago. It was difficult going from seven children at home to none. Empty nest syndrome, they called it. It wasn't only women who suffered from it. Men did too. Eric was living proof. He was the one who had decided they wouldn't celebrate Christmas this year. "Christmas is for the kids," he had said, "and we don't have any in this house. Not even close."
Not even close. The closest was their youngest daughter and she lived with her husband two hundred miles away. The kids were all caught up in their own lives now. That was normal and healthy for them, no matter how lonely it got for their parents. They had grandchildren that they had never seen. Lillie and John lived in Australia now. Two children had been born to them since they moved there to be missionaries. All the others were in the United States, but they lived so far away that visiting regularly was impossible.
Candy sighed. At least all their children were self-sufficient. At the office, some of the women had grown kids still living with them, often unable to support themselves. Sometimes she thought Eric would have been happier that way.
Part of their problem was the house. It was too big for them now, but Eric didn't want to sell it. There were a lot of great memories in that house. Eric insisted there were many more to come. Probably so. Wherever they lived, they would be happy as long as they were together. That didn't alter the fact that the house was too much for them. He would eventually come to that conclusion on his own, though. She didn't want to push him on the subject until he was ready.
The garage door lifted to expose an empty space where Eric's truck should be. She checked her phone, but found no messages. That was unusual. Eric usually called her any time the least change occurred in his plans. He was always equally concerned when she was not where he expected her to be.
Inside the house Candy glanced around, but found no evidence that Eric had even been home yet. After leaving the festive atmosphere of the office, the inside of their home seemed drab. It was a nice home. They had both worked to keep it that way. Maybe if she put a small tree on the counter - even a few Christmas themed candles, or a wreath on the door. Surely Eric wouldn't mind if she decorated only a little.
She was fixing supper when Eric came through the front door, a half-dozen plastic sacks dangling from his hands. What in the world? They had done their grocery shopping yesterday. They had enough groceries to last two weeks.
Eric's grin was sheepish. "I got a few things to decorate for Christmas." He sat a sack on the counter. "And a ham."
Candy frowned, hesitant to question his good humor.
Eric's grin widened and his eyes twinkled. "We're going to have visitors."
"Children?" She couldn't resist asking.
His grin faltered and he looked dubious. "Uh…kind of."
Candy waited patiently for him to reveal the source of his joy. She glanced into one of the sacks. "What's this?" She pulled out a Christmas tree ornament that was a little tractor.
"They said he likes tractors."
She glanced up at his face. "He? Who?"
He lifted the remaining sacks to the counter, obviously stalling while he constructed his response. Even so, he stammered.
"There are people…homeless people…who won't have a Christmas, so I thought…since we have this big house…."
Slowly it dawned on her what he had done. He was so kind and caring.
"How many?" she asked.
"Just three." His gaze pleaded for her approval. "A girl, her three year old son, and her mother." His head tipped to the side. "You don't mind, do you? It's just for a little while, until she gets her apartment."
Candy smiled. "What a wonderful thought! I love the idea. How did you find out about them?"
For the rest of the evening they talked and decorated with enthusiasm. There were so many needy people in the world, and so many empty nesters. Why shouldn't they get together?