Merry Christmas, Grandpa

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…

Hey Grandpa!

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.

Christmas at Grandpa's

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.

Christmas presentsI miss you Grandpa.

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.

And loved.

The way you made us feel – every year.

I love you Grandpa.

Merry Christmas.

A Sad But Almost Funny Moment of Grief

Grief surprises you.

Just when you think you are doing fine – it hits you right between the eyes.

Like today, as Jan and I were casually walking through an antique store in Jamesport, Missouri.

I was just wandering along looking at things – when I saw Grandma’s china.

Well – it wasn’t Grandma’s exact china – but a set that was identical.

I’ve always loved Grandma’s china. It was a beautiful pattern with tiny blue flowers – and there it was staring at me.

On a shelf at the antique store.

With a sign that read 50% off.

I gasped and stopped so suddenly that Jan almost ran into me.

“It’s Grandma’s china! On sale! Well – not exactly Grandma’s china – but it looks just like it!” I said in a rush.

Jan just looked at me quizzically.

“Maybe I should get a cup and saucer to put in my china hutch to remember Grandma by? But then again – it isn’t really my Grandma’s china is it?”

Just then I spotted a gravy boat in the same set and continued without pausing for breath, ” A gravy boat! I remember when Grandma first got the set and used a gravy boat at Christmas. It was the first time I ever saw a gravy boat. I loved it!”

And then it hit.

Without warning.

I teared up and broke down right there in the front of the china display in the middle of a crowded antique store.

I saw Grandma making mashed potatoes and filling her beautiful gravy boat with her homemade gravy and placing it on the dining room table in front of me.

And I cried.

Blubbered even.

Mashed potatoes and gravy pack a powerful emotional connection.

Boy did people clear out of that section of the store fast! You could almost hear their thoughts, “Emotional melt-down in aisle 3 – please clear the area!”

I headed off to another section of the store and stared at a meaningless display of cameras and tried to pull myself together, leaving my poor husband staring after me in confusion.

“Does she want me to buy the cup and saucer?

Or am I supposed to buy the gravy boat?

Or both?

Or neither because it isn’t actually her Grandma’s china?

And where did she go anyway?”

Bless his heart.

As I stood staring at the vintage Brownie cameras I realized that down deep – it wasn’t the cup or the saucer or the gravy boat I wanted.

It was Grandma.

And no – we didn’t buy any china today.  I’m sure I’ll see that pattern again if I change my mind.

But we will definitely be having having mashed potatoes for lunch tomorrow.

With homemade gravy.

And I’ll remember Grandma.