Ahhh, Christmas. It is the best of times, and it is the worst of times.

As soon as the carols start to play, visions of stealing start to dance in a few heads. A Black Friday shopper recently said her purse was stolen while she waited to do her Christmas shopping in Thomaston. And other local residents are reporting holiday packages that were delivered to their front porches had gone missing by the time they went to retrieve them.

The Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees in Waterville was hit by a thief who stole donations including $1,000 in lottery tickets, a kayak, chainsaw, DVD player and more. The festival benefits hospice, needy children and Meals on Wheels. Seriously, how low can people go?

It always leaves me scratching my head. What kind of person has the impulse to take rather than give during this season?

These incidents reminded me of a holiday burglary my dad interrupted years ago. He’s 88 now, but I’d guess he was a spry 73 at the time. He lives in Providence, R.I., and is retired from the Providence Police Department.

So one night he was sitting in his “easy chair,” as he calls it, watching the evening news when he heard a car pull up outside his house. He peered out the window, as he often does, to get what he calls “the scoop.” Both he and my stepmother act as the unofficial Neighborhood Watch on their quiet street. They report on the comings and goings of their neighbors, which usually amounts to who went out to dinner and who had company. But this night, things were different. Real crime was happening, and thank goodness Officer Ferrazza (Ret.) was still on the beat.

With Christmas just a few weeks away, my father heard the car and went onto high alert. He observed what appeared to be three youths in a black vehicle. It stopped in front of his neighbor's house and the driver killed the headlights. Dad’s police instincts kicked in immediately. He knew they were up to no good.

Sure enough, two shadowy figures got out of the car, and the sedan quietly left the block. My father watched as the daring duo darted across his neighbor's lawn and snatched two tiny reindeer and a miniature sleigh from the yard right across the street. They reached the sidewalk with their lifted loot just as the getaway car returned with its headlights still off.

Cursing under his breath, my father sprang into action. But instead of throwing up the sash like in "A Visit From St. Nicholas," he ran straight to his front door and yanked it open.

"Stop right there and drop those deer, you punks!" he boomed into the darkness. "I've got your license plate number. Get out of here … now!"

The two thieves froze, then dropped the decorations and jumped into the car, which squealed its tires and sped away.

Despite his heart condition and emphysema, my father bolted down the flagstone walkway in his PJs and slippers, and crossed the street. He retrieved Dasher, Dancer and the sleigh, and carried them to his neighbor’s front door then rang the bell.

"You should have seen me," Dad said. "I was all out of breath like I just ran a telethon."

Visions of the Jerry Lewis telethon, a holiday tradition, flashed in my head with my cranky father hosting instead of Jerry. I started to giggle.

“I think you mean a marathon,” I corrected. My dad has a habit of doing this. It's one of his charms.

He ignored me and continued with his story, reporting the neighbors were “ecstatic” about his late-night reindeer rescue. So appreciative, in fact, that they arrived on his doorstep the next day with a homemade cake to thank him for his bravery.

Sadly, my father is not one for getting too friendly with the neighbors. In fact, he doesn’t even know them, despite the fact they all have lived on that street for decades. He sometimes grouses that these unknown people steal his landscaping ideas and imitate his holiday decorations. The funny thing is, every house on the street looks almost exactly the same, and all of the lawns are the size of a postage stamp.

My stepmother was livid once she heard what he had done. She said his little “stunt” could have ended with his having a heart attack on the front lawn, or everybody's getting shot. In the future, she said, he should forget the heroics and mind his own business.

He disagreed and told her so.

"The day you bow down to these [expletive deleted], you might as well go back to the old country and live in the hills," he told her, referring to Italy. "You've got to stand up for your rights.”

Feeling proud, I told him the world needed more people like him. But I also warned that next time he might want to think before he sprang into action like one of the Avengers. You never know what people might do these days, I reminded, and he does live in a city.

"OK, honey," he said, suddenly sounding sad, then signed off. “I’ll let you go now.”

Uh-oh, now I’d done it. Not sure why he was so quiet, I asked what was wrong.

"Oh, nothing,” he said. “I'm just sitting here in my easy chair by the window … waiting to get shot.”

That’s when I realized he truly was afraid.

My poor father. This was no way to live, especially at his age and certainly not at Christmastime. What kind of society did we live in?

“Oh, Dad, I’m sorry. Are you really afraid now?” I said.

He laughed a big, hearty laugh and I knew I’d been had. So during the holidays, enjoy the beauty of the season, but don’t get so caught up in the wonder of it all that you forget to keep one eye out for con men. Trust me, they’re out there, and they may be closer than you think.

And the beat goes on.