This time of year always reminds me of my Grampa, my father's dad. I think of him in part because the 19th was his birthday. He was born December 19th, 1904. Wow. He served as a Marine sometime before World War 2, then raised rabbits as part of the war effort. My dad was a little boy back then. My father has told me countless stories about his childhood, and his father. As many times as he's told the stories, I still enjoy hearing them.
For me, my Grampa was a cool guy who my father would take my sister, brother and I to see every weekend. I always took Sooner, a tiny dog who I never knew what breed she was, for a quick walk up and down the block. When I'd come in, my dad would be talking to Grampa, and my siblings would be watching wrestling, something we weren't allowed to watch at home (yay Bulldog Kent and the Sheik). Every year at Christmas time, he would hang a candy cane on the lamp beside his sofa. That candy cane would become part of the collection of canes that hung there year round.
I remember the plain white paper bags he would give my siblings and I for Christmas, filled with candy, nuts and shiny change. Loved it! And I remember one year he made cheesecakes, festooned with sprinkles used to make a design. He was so creative!
When I was in 9th grade, I was feeling really sick at school, but they wouldn't let me walk home without them speaking to a relative first. Well, both my parents were at work, so I called my Grampa. He okayed my going home. When I got there, he called to check on me. He also gave me his recipe for a tea to make me feel better: hot tea with a generous dollop of honey and a half a shot of whiskey. Well, I did the tea with honey only, obviously. Still he was really there for me.
My Grampa and my Aunt Alise (my maternal grandmother's twin) are the two relatives that meant the most to me growing up. They were my extended family. I still have my Aunt Alise (who always speaks her mind, which I love about her, and who claims to be 39 still. So cool.) But I lost my Grampa in May of 86. Every year on December 19th, I think of him even more. I miss you Grampa.
I'm going to go hang a candy cane on my lamp, in honor of my Grampa.