A Christmas to remember
Christmas brings joy sprinkled with sadness for those of us who lost the ones who made the holidays special. Grandpa and Grandma moved to Heaven over thirty years ago, but memories keep them alive in my heart. When my parents divorced, my little Sis and I lived with them. I'd really love to send Grandpa a letter to tell him how much I miss him. I know he can't read it but maybe you can read it for him?
During the five years I lived with you and Gram, you meant so much to me. I’ll never forget when we sat cross-legged on the olive-green carpet in the living room. You held my social security card and said, “know this number just like you know your name.” I recited it at least fifty times. Whenever I write it or say it, I remember you.
One Christmas I came to visit and you met me in the driveway before I even took my suitcase into the house.
“Get your boots on.”
So, I did. Trekking through a foot and a half of Pennsylvania snow over half a mile through the woods, we came upon a cluster of five-foot pines.
“Pick out any one of these three.”
Finally, a real tree instead of the artificial imposter. I busted with joy.
Looking back on that day I marvel. How did you know I always wanted a real tree? Oh, maybe you did too? You made it happen, however, Gram always stood firm on the premise that a real tree makes a mess. Gram must have been a prophet!
Trimming the once-in-a-lifetime tree, we created an uncleanable, unforgiveable memorable mess. How old were those big bulbs anyway? Burned little brown spots all over Gram's beloved olive-green carpet. We both got shot with Gram’s glare gun. Boy, she got hotter than those giant red, green, and orange bulbs. Looking back, I can't help but laugh. I felt safe with you, even in the dog house.
I drove from Indiana to attend your fiftieth wedding anniversary. During that trip I learned exactly why you knew me so well.
Despite the clatter and chatter in the kitchen of the Grange Hall and the cleanup crew grabbing our dessert dishes and clearing our table, you did something I had only witnessed once before in our lives. You cried.
Sandwiched between your red-headed twin sisters, Mae and Della and the youngest, Nellie, stories of homelife and childhood memories managed to pour pain out of your soul. Your honest transparency hit us all with disbelief.
“I always felt like I wasn’t wanted. I missed out on so much,” wiping streams of sorrow from your eyes and nose with a white napkin. The girls piped up quick.
Mae said, “But you had so much love. You were so lucky. We always loved you, Merv. It was not that you were not wanted. Mom and Dad loved you so, we all did and still do.” Bewildered, I stared quietly at the scene before me. Aunt Mae later explained.
“Your Grandad and the newborn baby brother went to spend time with mom’s parents after her twelfth delivery.” (With ten children still at home, I doubted true rest was possible.) Mae continued, “However, when the time came to bring the boys home, our grandparents made a request of mom and dad. ‘We’ve fallen in love with Mervin and you have so many children. Could we keep him?’ And our parents let him go.”
Grandpa, we shared parallel lives. Growing up feeling unwanted is like running in the desert yearning for a drink from the family fountain of belonging. It must have been terribly hard for you living like an only child when you were really one of twelve. Maybe you spent time with your family during the holidays, kind of like visitation?
You never talked much about your mom and dad, nor your grandparents. You need to know they raised you well, they all did. They must have loved you deeply, for you loved people. God prepared you to raise me by giving you and I an identical twin-some growing up experience.
Of all the people in my life, I know without a doubt, you loved me. Your words had weight and your consistent actions added meaning. Being raised by grandparents is a blessing, I believe the blessing to be mutual. If you were still alive, I believe you would agree.
The only other time I ever saw you cry was when little Sis and I bought you a statue for your birthday. You opened the top of the box and all you could see were big, bulging eyes of a guy. Pulling him up out of the box, arms behind his back, looking rather sheepish, he stood on an ivory-colored platform engraved in black, Grandpa, You’re the greatest.
Your voice cracked a muttered “Thanks” and you took off to the bedroom. In that moment I knew, you knew, I loved you too.
Love you forever,
P.S. Little Sis still has your statue.