Mr. Norris and VFW Christmas parties

Some emails you just hate to get.

Especially one that starts like this: It is with great sadness and heavy heart …

That’s how Billy Gates’ email started Friday, January 5, as he informed his email group about the passing of a friend.

I had already read the subject line: Raymond Norris. And I had a feeling before I read the first line of the email. In a split second, I hoped it was just news about Mr. Norris, but not news of his passing.

A month and a day before this email, Myrna and I had the privilege of attending the VFW Post 7016 Christmas dinner. Every year, the Post hosts the dinner which includes a great meal, warm fellowship and Dirty Santa.

Mr. Norris’ niece, Mary Ann Allen, brought him to the party in December.

The dinner was nice. The fellowship was nice. But Dirty Santa … well, that’s another story. For several years, Mr. Norris made Dirty Santa a fun and funny event.

If you’re not familiar with Dirty Santa, everyone brings a wrapped gift or a gift in a bag. Everyone draws a number to determine the order in which gifts are selected. If you want to keep your gift, that’s fine, but you can swap it for a gift that’s already been selected and opened. A gift can be “stolen” only three times and then it’s dead. Post member Abby Brooks does a good job of keeping the game going – and within the rules.

Now, I don’t know what there was about a flashlight, but if ever a flashlight was opened, Mr. Norris wanted it. And if it was a pack of flashlights, well, he was all about that.

The fun part was that several of us acted like we were going to “steal” his flashlight when it was our turn. “Oh no!” he exclaimed as he often waved his walking cane in the direction of the would-be taker.

This past year, it wasn’t a flashlight that caught his fancy – it was a five-cup programmable coffeemaker. He was really taken with it, and sure enough he ended up with it. Well, I took a fancy to it myself, but when I headed in his direction – well, let’s just say I didn’t come home with the coffeemaker.

I did share a love of flashlights with Mr. Norris. I have no idea why, but I like flashlights – all kinds, all sizes. At the last Christmas party, Lloyd Albritton ended up with a big pack of small LED flashlights. When it was my turn, I got them! Then somebody got them from me. Then I got a single flashlight from someone else.

Mary Ann was the first person to choose that night, so she was the last one to have the chance to take someone else’s gift.

She took my flashlight! And now I’m wondering – did Mr. Norris get the coffeemaker AND the flashlight? I wouldn’t be surprised. But I would be glad.

Things won’t be the same without Mr. Norris. Especially the VFW Christmas party.

For the party this year, I think maybe I’ll take a pack of flashlights. A big pack.