We’re definitely into December. Yesterday and today many parts of the Midwest and Wisconsin have endured blizzard conditions. In my little portion of the world torrential rains fell yesterday which turned to heavy blowing snow about 7 AM this morning. It’s been snowing and blowing all day, and the lake has been throwing huge waves against the shore all day.
Weather forecasters have been calling this storm a blizzard, and while not so here, other places not far away have been hammered. All day I’ve been thinking about similar snowstorms in December. Those thoughts bring me to thoughts of my maternal grandfather who died in such a storm 51 years ago. He was shoveling snow.
He is always in my heart but much on my mind in December. He loved December—maybe because as a farmer, this time of the year may not have been such a busy time for him. However, I think it was because he loved Christmas. Like many farmers, he had a deep faith and loved the religious aspects of the holiday.
But he had a bit of the mischievous Santa elf in his make-up and loved to surprise his family with silly little gifts. He adored his wife, and Christmas was a time he expressed it with special gifts for her. These three parts of his nature are what make me think so much of him during this time of year.
Not long after I was born, my father left for the South Pacific during WWII and we never saw him for three years. This was the time when letters were few and far between; the internet, Skype, email etc where beyond imagining. So the dominant male figure in my early life was my grandfather as we lived with my grandparents while my father was gone.
My earliest memories of Grandpa were of wrapping little gifts with him. Well, early on I watched, but since this wasn’t a job he particularly liked (or excelled at), I inherited the job as soon as I was able to wrap. Those early attempts of mine were pretty sad, but he always praised me and never tried to make my efforts look better. We did this for years and I always looked forward to that special time between the two of us.
He died two days before Christmas. He had already done his shopping, and I had wrapped his gifts; however, he hid them, and I had no way of knowing where they were. His death dimmed everything about that Christmas. No one was thinking about gifts. But in the months following his death as my grandmother and I were clearing out the home they shared, we found those gifts. Each time we found one, Gram clasped them to her heart, and we both cried. It was if Grandpa had returned to us for just a bit. Of course, a little bit wasn’t enough. He was such a special man.
But because he was so special, we as a family knew we could never give up the Christmas traditions he loved. To this day we still gather as a family, one much larger than the one that celebrated with him. We did multiply. 🙂
Because of my grandfather and the love he and my grandmother shared, when she died 34 years ago, 12 days before Christmas, I was devastated. But I knew she was now celebrating Christmas with the man she loved—and most likely he had years of Christmas gifts hidden and waiting for her to find in heaven. Because of Grandpa and all I learned from him, when 11 years ago, my second son died 3 days before Christmas, I knew I could carry on, bear through, and not be sad. Because John was surely meeting his great-grandfather for the first time.
So Christmas and its preparations are bittersweet for me. On days like today with fierce winds and heavy snow, my heart aches with the losses of those I love. When I wrap gifts, I think of Grandpa and all the wonderful values he taught me: the love of God, the love of family, the joys of Christmas and giving, I could go on for pages. Since today I wrapped packages, I think Grampa was looking over my shoulder and giving me that impish smile I loved.
I’ve been very blessed with special people in my life. But today was a time one of the first of those was with me much.
Have you had days when you’ve felt the same?