As I was writing Christmas letters this week, I came to Grandpa and Grandma’s address. After a moment of sadness that Grandma was gone and wouldn’t read it this year – I thought of Grandpa.
He’s spending his first Christmas alone without Grandma in over 60 years. I wish I was closer so I could spend some time with him. I wish I could bring him home with me for a few hours on Christmas Day.
But most of all – I wish he remembered me.
Alzheimer’s is cruel.
But if Christmas wishes did come true – and I could give Grandpa a hug in person and have his eyes light up in recognition, this is what I would tell him…
It’s me, Melinda. I’m one of Shirley’s girls. Remember me? I’m the one who drove the car into the side of your granary.
I just wanted to say thank you for making Christmas at your house so wonderful.
From the moment we drove in, you made me feel loved.
You remembered how scared I was of dogs so you tied him up before I got there. You didn’t want me to be afraid to get out of the car. Poor Smoke – he wouldn’t hurt a flea, but you wanted me to feel safe.
You were the one to open the door – standing in the cold Iowa winter to greet us. “Merry Christmas! Come on in! Did Santa come last night?”
A tickle, a tease, a hug and we were swept inside.
That old farmhouse was warm and full of noise and activity. Aunts and uncles and cousins filled the table in the dining room and spilled out into the living room. And there you were – larger than life in, the middle of everything, teasing, laughing, loving us.
When the meal was over – you took your self-appointed place at the kitchen sink and washed the dishes.
Every dish. And with a smile on your face.
When we were really young, it seemed like dishes took forever and kept us waiting to open presents. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand that the act of washing dishes was a present – a sweet and priceless gift you gave Grandma every Christmas. And I loved you even more for it.
I can still see you standing by that sink, Grandpa, wearing your good bib overalls with the sleeves of your shirt rolled up, your hands deep in the soapy water.
A picture of love. Commitment. Sacrifice.
I remember your small living room being literally covered with family members. All sitting around your tiny silver metallic tree, dwarfed by all the gifts.
You and grandma sat side by side as you announced, “We need to pass out some presents!”
I looked forward to opening your gift every year, Grandpa. I know you picked it out – Grandma always told us. The two of you would go to Dralle’s Department Store in Greene and you bought us clothes – real store bought clothes. For kids whose mom made all their clothes – from swimsuits to snow pants – your gift was such a treat! And you have such good taste!
My all-time favorite was the rainbow striped sweater. It was a sad day when I outgrew it.
You really knew how to give gifts, Grandpa. I think that’s because you have such a big heart.
I thought of you when I took our Sunday School kids to the nursing home to perform our Christmas Program. I hoped there were kids at your nursing home who sang for you.
When the singing was over and I walked around the room greeting the residents, I missed you.
As I looked in their eyes, took their hands and said “Merry Christmas”, I prayed that there was someone holding your hand this Christmas.
Someone looking in your eyes and saying “Merry Christmas”.
Someone to make you feel special.
The way you made us feel – every year.
I love you Grandpa.