I'm getting more and more like my dad, who died about five years ago - a few days short of his 90th birthday.

I notice it in little ways - the advice I give to my children, and the sarcastic comments I make about life. Sometimes it's so eerie that I can hear my dad saying it even as I'm saying it.This year as I went with Marti and two of our kids to look for a Christmas tree, I even felt like my dad.

You have to understand that in my family we have a terrible time agreeing on a Christmas tree - and to get a tree that each one of us is crazy about is clearly a life or death issue.

We spend hours looking at trees, sizing them up, comparing costs, checking the freshness, and arguing between what constitutes a scrawny, undernourished, embarrassing tree - and a bushy, overdone, un-Christmaslike tree.

It's the same process that I remember going through with my brother and sisters and my mom and dad. Even though we had a hard time reaching a consensus, my mother was eternally patient. She didn't care how cold it was or how long it took - it had to be just the right tree.

My dad went with us and he listened to all the arguments for each tree and then he smiled and shook his head. It was clear from the time I was a little kid that Dad just didn't care.

He would have been happy with any tree. He wasn't even fussy about the cost.

"Let's just decide on one and take it home," he would say - "and the sooner the better."

But he didn't get angry. In fact he was very pleasant about it - for the first several hours. As the night wore on and temperatures sank lower, his patience wore thinner. But he never ranted and raved.

He was always a little more sullen by the time we finally found that perfect tree and piled it into the trunk of the car.

Which brings us back to the family of which I am the dad.

I used to join in all the arguments about size and type and forcefully express my own views - always hoping to win the argument and get my own personal choice for best tree.

But this year something was different. I found myself sort of standing off to the side and listening to the various viewpoints - the way my dad always did - and then saying, "Let's just decide on one!"

Something had clearly snapped.

We did this through several Christmas tree lots, all the while noticing that the prices were increasing with each lot. When we realized that the prices were competitive with those of fake trees, we even went to look at some.

We were interested in a flocked tree - and unfortunately, the fake flocked trees were too fake-looking.

So we headed back to the outside lots to compare notes once more. It was an endless, discourging, frustrating procecss.

And the fact was I just didn't care - not even about the price! Marti, on the other hand, was infinitely patient - just the way my mom used to be.

True to my dad's example, I did not rant and rave.

So long after dark, we finally settled on a fine looking, flocked tree that was very expensive.

The man who sold it to us was much more cooperative than any tree salesman I remembered as a kid. He flipped out his chain saw and cut off a small section of the tree so it would be fresh. He covered the tree in a humongous bag. He put it into the trunk of our car and even tied it in with his own twine.

All that attention didn't quite make up for the price, but I was just happy it was over.

When we got home we had another major difference of opinion - where would the tree stand in the house? We moved it so many times that the entire house was flocked - like a wonderfully wintry Christmas scene.

Finally - the end of the arduous process. The tree stands in splendid compromise - between two rooms.

I love it.

And so would my dad.