My Gift-giving Grampa


Snow again

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.

Why?

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?

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10 Comments on “My Gift-giving Grampa”

  1. Elle J Rossi Says:

    I know exactly how you feel. I try to keep my chin up and remember all the good times. But remembering those times makes me miss them even more!

  2. caseyclifford Says:

    I understand your feelings, Elle. But at least your memories are special and stay with you. Have a good week.

  3. Edie Ramer Says:

    What a wonderful story about your grandfather. And your grandmother. I teared up. You know how to touch my heart.

  4. Deb Maher Says:

    Such warm memories you have! You brought both your grandparents alive again, MJ! My eyes misted at the story of the two of you finding his gifts, and your grandmother’s reaction.

    I saw your storm on the news. Brrr! A good weekend to huddle indoors with a hot drink! Stay warm, my friend!

  5. caseyclifford Says:

    Edie,

    Grampa was such a marvelous man and the kind of man who makes the best hero. Each hero of mine, fictional or not, must measure up to him.

    Have a great week.

  6. caseyclifford Says:

    Deb,

    Thanks for commenting and huddling with a warm drink is definitely required. It’s so cold here!!

    My grandparents had such a tender interplay between themselves which only when I was older and truly aware of how special that was, did I understand the depth of their joy in each other.

  7. Kathy Goldenstein Says:

    I learned so much from your post – I feel like I know a little more about Grandpa and Grandma and they become clearer in my mind. Like Grandpa, my Daddy wasn’t very good at wrapping so we girls would do it for him but he always wrote on the tags and it wasn’t just To: Jeanette, From: Jim, he always had a little twist to it. So when she would find them under the tree she would look at him and smile and he would just beam.
    With all the snow in the Cities this weekend, we were home bound and they were all in my heart as I took the opportunity to finish decorating and made a patch of cookies with my kids.

  8. caseyclifford Says:

    Kathy,

    Your dad was much like Grampa, but then Uncle Jim had years to model himself after his dad. I could have said so much more about Christmases past. Like the year your dad gave your mom her engagement ring on Christmas. Everyone included them were at our house for Christmas Eve as Santa was supposed to arrive. Your mom and Dad were so happy and I still remember your mom doing her best to show her ring to its greatest advantage. 🙂 Grampa was in his glory that Christmas as he could see his son was settling into a new life with a good woman at his side, one he would treasure as Grampa treasured Gramma.

    I’m so very glad you stopped by and got to know Grampa a bit better from my post. I loved him so much and I’m so glad that we were both doing similar things yesterday and thinking of family.

    Stay warm.

  9. lori Says:

    Beautiful stuff. Faith, Hope and Love…these three last. And the Love never ends. Merry Christmas!

    Lori

  10. caseyclifford Says:

    Merry Christmas back at you, Lori. Thanks for stopping in.


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