TITLE: Home for Christmas
By Holly Jensen
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Christmas is a time like no other; when the unexpected is, well, expected. Last Christmas, the unexpected came to visit my home. I was blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, for which I am constantly grateful. This allowed me to care for my maternal grandfather when the problems of old age made it impossible for him to live on his own. His wife had been dead for years and he missed her terribly.
Grosspapi’s life had been a hard one. He and his new wife had left Germany immediately following World War II. My mother was born shortly afterward. When I was a child, she and my father were killed in a car crash. Grosspapi and Grossmami raised me then. Throughout all of this, Grosspapi's faith in Christ had only grown stronger. Now, when old age had finally caught up with him, it was still true.
One day, several weeks before Christmas, I walked into his room with a mission in mind. I wanted to get him something very special for Christmas this year. Not because things were important to Grosspapi, but because words were not enough to thank him for all he and Grossmami had meant to me.
When I walked into the room, I saw that he was awake. He greeted me with that warm smile that was his trade-mark. I walked over to the bed and took his hand.
"Grosspapi, what do you want most for Christmas this year?”
He just looked at me for a while, thinking.
"Most of all," he said, "I vant my Yesose to come and take me home.”
I almost didn't catch the gasp that came. It was as though he'd struck me in the heart. I knew he was old and tired, but I still wasn't expecting this. A lump rose in my throat and I tried to hold back the tears.
"Isn't there anything else?" I asked.
“Vat else could zere be?”
He was right, of course, but that didn't solve my problem. I nodded and kissed his cheek. Then I left and went to my own room. As soon as I closed the door, I hit my knees, finally letting the tears come.
"Oh God," I prayed, "You must know how badly that hurt. Yet I can't help understanding why he would wish such a thing. Grossmami has been gone so long. And this old world is hard on him. But Lord, I don't know if I can bear this. I want him to have what he wants, but I don't want to say goodbye. Help me to give all these things to you. And be willing to accept your answer.”
During the coming days, I became caught up in the season. I bought something I thought Grosspapi would like and finished my shopping for Rob and the kids. Between all of this, caring for Grosspapi, and my household, things were quite busy. Before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve.
All of us were reading the Christmas story in Grosspapi's room when I heard someone knocking on the door. I stood up to answer it, thinking it was one of my friends. When I opened the door, I almost screamed with amazement.
"Rob, come quick!" I called.
Rob came to the door and looked at me as though he thought I had to have engineered this as a Christmas joke. On the door step was a baby. He was carefully wrapped against the cold. Still, I picked him up and brought him inside. He was a sweet little thing and looked to be new-born.
"Who dropped him off?" Rob asked.
"I don't know," I answered. "He was just there when I opened the door!”
Then I saw the note pinned to the baby's blanket.
"I leave you this baby in hopes that you will care for him tonight. I'll be back for them in the morning.”
"That's odd," said Rob, who had read the note allowed. "It says that someone will ‘be back for them in the morning.’ There's only one baby here.”
"Maybe it was a mistake. The note looks like it was written in a hurry.”
"Maybe," Said Rob.
Then my eldest daughter came running into the front hall.
"Grosspapi wants to know what's going on. Oh, it's a baby!”
Then she ran off to tell the others the news. I figured I should at least let Grosspapi see the baby before we decided what to do with him. Grosspapi loved children. And he might know what to do with this one.
The baby didn't cry when I picked him up. In fact, he seemed to smile at me. I carried him into the bedroom while Rob went to fetch our old cradle. Grosspapi smiled when he saw the little one.
"A precious little von," he said, taking the tiny hand.
This time I was almost positive the baby smiled. But he was too young to have understood Grosspapi's words.
"What do you think we should do with him, Grosspapi?" I asked.
"Lay him in ze cradle. If zey don't come for him, call the police after Christmas. No little von should have to spend Christmas at ze police station or vere ever it is zey take zem.”
I knew he'd have an answer. We laid the baby in the cradle and Rob went out to get some formula to feed him. Since Grosspapi's room was the quietest place in the house that night, save our room, we put him in there so neither of them would be totally alone.
As was our custom, the kids, Rob, and I went into the front room to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Grosspapi was too tired to come out and watch with us. It was a beautiful Christmas Eve. There were lights on all up and down our street. I have always loved "It's a Wonderful Life." It never grows old or seems out-of-date.
After the movie ended, I walked in a dreamy state to Grosspapi's room so I could check on him and the baby. Grosspapi awoke when I switched on the light.
"I'm sorry," I said softly. "I didn't mean to wake you.”
"No matter. How vas ze show?”
"Wonderful," I answered still dreamy and excited about the coming day.
As I walked toward his bed, I stopped to check on the baby. He was sleeping, but just as I passed, he woke up. He cried and I recognized the sound of hunger. I picked him up and carried him to the kitchen to feed him. When I carried him back to the bedroom, Grosspapi was still awake.
"Bring ze cradle close," he said. "Ve bos need company tonight.”
I did as he asked and Grosspapi reached down to take the baby's hand in his own. I smiled; they both looked so peaceful and happy. I leaned over to kiss Grosspapi's cheek.
"Good night," I said. "Thank you for everything.”
"Sank you, my Anna," he said, "For taking care of an old man.”
"Shah," I said, as his wife always used to say to me. "Merry Christmas Grosspapi.”
"Merry Christmas, my Anna. I love you and alvays vill.”
"I love you too, Grosspapi," I answered and kissed his cheek again.
After kissing the baby's cheek as well, I went toward the door. Before switching off the light, I took one last look at the two of them. They looked so content together. Grosspapi was still holding the baby's hand. As I shut off the light, I thought that it was just like Grosspapi. He could never bear to see a soul lonely on any night, much less this one.
That night, I slept peacefully and awoke refreshed. The first thing I did was to go in to check on GROSSPAPI and the baby. When would the unknown parent come for him? Would they come? I thought it terribly odd that I hadn’t heard the baby cry during the night.
I stepped into the room and switched on the light. Grosspapi still had that peaceful, contented look on his face. His hand rested on the cradle. Then I noticed that the cradle was empty. What, empty! Had they broken in to take him back? No, we surely would have heard someone.
I looked again at Grosspapi and noticed that something was different. He looked too still. I walked quickly to the bed and put my hand on his chest. I felt no breathing.
"Oh God, no!" I cried, hitting my knees and taking Grosspapi's hand.
I cried harder than I had cried in a long time. When the tears were passed, I stood up and went to waken Rob. I told him what I'd found and we cried together. When the children woke up, we told them the news.
No one was much in the mood for presents, so we decided to wait a couple of days till the pain was not so fresh. As the day passed, I noticed that no one had come to see if the baby was still there. When Rob and I talked about it that night, we were filled with wonder and awe. Grosspapi's Christmas wish, no, prayer, had come true. His "Yesose" had sent His angel to keep him company until He came to take him home.
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