On January 1, 1976, my maternal grandmother - Nana - died.
She was 82 years old.
Because her passing was sudden, my 96-year-old grandfather moved in to our house. Even though he was four years shy of a full century on the planet, he was in remarkably good health. His hearing was sharp, he could see well and although he used a cane at times, he could walk well, too.
Still, he was shocked and saddened by his wife's passing and so in an attempt to make him feel as comfortable as possible, my mother set up a hospital bed for him in our dining room.
I have extremely sharp memories of crawling in to the room where he lay, on my hands and knees, and as quietly as possible, taking Brach butterscotch candies from the bowl near his head. Despite my attempts at remaining silent, he would reach down with his cane and try swiping at me while yelling, "HEY KID!! I hear you down there!! What are you doing?! Are you eating all the CANDY?!!"
And then he'd yell for my mother, "MAAARRRY!!!! COME GET JENNNNNYYYY!!!"
One might think that my grandfather didn't care much for me, the youngest of his 40 grandchildren.
But I know he did.
And I cared for him, too.
Which is why when he fell asleep in a chair while sitting in the sun room, I gently wrapped garland and brightly colored lights that had recently been removed from our Christmas tree, neatly around him. I hung a few ornaments for flare and then plugged the lights in to a socket. And then I stood back and admired my 96-year old grandpa, asleep in a chair, with bright Christmas lights strung around his whole body.
It was such a shock for everyone when my grandfather followed my grandmother to heaven on January 6, 1976 ... a mere five days after she had died. But my grandfather told my mother that now his Margaret was gone, he needed to be with her. So that's just what he did.
His decision to leave this life had nothing to do with me.
Even though I was only five-years-old, I have such great memories of my grandfather living at our home. It was a short period of time, but the experiences in my mind are sharp and crisp. Whenever I eat a butterscotch candy, I am instantly transported back to that time. I can see him in the chair with flashing lights. I can see him in his bed as I stealthily crawl underneath. I can even feel the whoosh! of the cane, in a futile search for me.
Yesterday, I was reminded of my grandfather when my four-year-old daughter used our coaxial computer cable to decorate our Christmas tree.
I was reminded again this morning when our three four-year-old children used 100 yards of curling ribbon to wrap around anything that didn't move in our house. I knew what they were doing. I just figured that since they weren't hurting anything, I'd let them stay busy so I could finish wrapping their father's presents.
Watching these children, makes me remember what it feels like to be a small child.
The excitement. The joy. The anticipation.
I am caught up in it, with them.
This afternoon, when I introduce the children to butterscotch candy for the first time when we decorate our gingerbread house, (where I'm sure I'll be heard saying, "Don't eat all the candy!!") I am going to tell the kids about their great-grandfather. I am going to tell them that because they were born on his 125th birthday, they have a lot of grandpa in them. They are wonderful and the greatest gifts I have ever received.
But I think they are a little payback, too.