Monday, December 17, 2007

Grandfather's Solitude
A Christmas Reflection

I have always directed my Christmas column toward families who are caught up in a tinsel marathon of tree trimming, stocking stuffing, music making, dog barking and children squealing.

They're so busy that sometimes I get only a glance before the garbage is wrapped in me. Occasionally, someone puts me on the back porch to catch the slush from boots. If I'm lucky I escape the licking flames when I get thrown in the fireplace with discarded wrappings and warranties.

So I've decided to write to all of you today who have the time to read me: those who have just moved to an area and haven't made new friends...those who are alone because they can't afford the trip home...those families who have been splintered by distance or disinterest. And you are alone.

Let me tell you about my grandfather. He lived by himself in a little trailer in southwest Ohio until he died a few years ago. I always felt sorry for him when I visited at Christmas because he only had about five cards on top of the TV set, two or three packages at the most to open, and a pitiful artificial tree with a single strand of lights that bubbled like they were going to boil over.

You would have thought those pathetic trappings were straight out of the Sistine Chapel.

He'd pick up each card, trace the scene with his fingers and marvel, "This is pretty enough to be put in a frame." Then he'd recite the message inside, which he had memorized.

The boxes were another delight. He'd shake them and make a guess as to what they held and place them gently under the tree. Then he'd prime you for that big moment when he said, "I'm going to light the tree for you!" My sewing machine had a bigger light.

The year before he died, when he spent Christmas in the hospital, he raved the entire visiting period over a favor on his dinner tray: a Styrofoam Santa Claus with a red gumdrop hat held on by a toothpick.

Every Christmas since then, I have had to ask myself: Can I quote a single line from the stack of cards I receive? Can I visit without keeping an eye on my watch? Can I become childlike with excitement over a box that obviously holds a handkerchief? Can I live with my solitude without self-pity?

God help me. I think my grandfather felt sorry for me.

by Erma Bombeck
December 25, 1979


Mary Poppins NOT said...

O how precious. Can I post this, with a hat tip from you, of course?

patjrsmom said...

Please share it. Erma Bombeck's columns hung on refrigerators all across America for years. I think she would have been thrilled to find her work *hanging* on blogs in homes everywhere.

God Bless (and a Merry Christmas!)