First Christmas


There’s a moment after someone leaves your life where you think you’ll somehow forget them. Though an integral part of your life, you fear that there may come a day when you don’t think about them. When a song will return to being just that, a song. Not a reminder of their absence. A time when a flower, sunset, snowflake, turtle, park bench, pillow, milk carton and other random items won’t cause you to break down and cry.

That moment comes. Slowly for some. Quickly for others. It’s a tough moment to accept, yet what your loved one wanted all along.

Part of me thought that moment had come and gone. With the passing of my last grandparent, Grandma N, a long-time resident of a care center, long ago lost in another time and space in her mind, I figured I had already grieved. What turned out to be our last Christmas together (2012) was also the first time I feel like I truly, fully, deeply connected with my grandma. Something clicked in our fairly one-sided conversation. And I think she felt it too.

Since March was, well, back in March, I had pushed thoughts of my last grandparent aside. Replacing it with to-do lists, travel plans, work, meeting new people, and all the other things that fill my time.

Despite what I assumed, I am not at that moment yet. The moment of forgetfulness. For on Saturday, I was baking cookies with my mom. A request she made via text earlier in the week. It’s not necessarily a tradition. Baking together. As a kid, I helped stir and sprinkle, but most of the time I told my mom what cookies I wanted and she granted my wish!

Right there, in the midst of cookie pans and cooling racks, my dad entered the kitchen. He had the look on his face when he has something to share.

“What?” I asked, as I wiped my flour-covered hands on the dish rag.
“Look what I found,” he grinned, placing a colorful gift tag on the counter. Thinking not much of it, I flipped open the penguin card and read the inside sentiment: “To: Megan “Love: Grandma.” Written in my mom’s distinctly perfect cursive, I knew that it was from Grandma N. In recent years, holed up in the care center, my parents would pick out gifts from grandma for my sister and me. And the bright card on the Silestone was a reminder of the last gift from Grandma. I smiled, chuckled, and said, “oh!” to my dad.

And then, it happened. With an already emotional song in the background, Dave Barnes’ “Family Tree,” I cried. Tears slid down my face and I remembered that Grandma is gone; reunited with all my grandparents.

None of them are here to see me, call me, or give Christmas gifts. I don’t care about the materialistic side of the gift. I don’t miss slippers, scrunchies, and silly toys. I miss the thought behind it. The grandparent giving it to me.
And the moment when they see your face as you unwrap the gift they chose just for you. Their joy-filled smiles and twinkling eyes.

That’s the moment I miss.

Whether your first Christmas or your last, as a grandchild or grandparent, remember it. Because you only get one first.

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