For years Christmas with my family in Indiana was celebrated the day after Thanksgiving because that was the day we could all be together. However, last year was different. My husband and I couldn't go because his father had died that week. My heart was heavy for several reasons and selfishly it included because I couldn't be with my family. Having missed Thanksgiving, I was really looking forward to Christmas with my Indiana family.
By phone, I quizzed my sister-in-law.
“What would the kids like for Christmas?” The kids were my grandnieces and grandnephews.
“Nate likes to read nonfiction books. He's especially interested in World War 2,” she answered.
I noted the other kids’ interests, too. But a seed had been planted in my mind and my heart. If Nate is interested in World War 2, I thought, what an opportunity for him to learn about his great-grandfather, my father. I continued thinking. He needs to hear about his great-grandfather and how he earned the Purple Heart. I had all the facts. All I needed to do was to write the history.
About five o’clock Saturday night, I sat before a blank computer screen and watched the cursor blinking. How do I begin telling this story to a ten-year-old, I asked myself? Suddenly the words began to flow. When I wasn't sure about my facts, I pulled out the three-inch three ring binders and thumbed through Dad's military records. Eventually, I was satisfied with the account I'd written. No, I wasn't satisfied. Suddenly I realized the history wasn't complete. Nate needed to know about his great-grandmother as well.
“What's for supper?” My husband asked. Supper? Was it time for supper already?
“Leftovers.” I really didn't want to take the time to prepare a meal. I was on a roll or so I thought. But I took the time to heat up the leftovers. What an understanding hubby I have! He knew what I was writing and let me continue the project.
I wrote about my mom. Nate learned how his great-grandparents met. He would read about Mom’s adventures in England and Israel. When I was done, I selected photographs to drop into the history book.
Ah, it's done, I thought with satisfaction. Now, the struggle was to put it in a book format.
That task took longer. Although computer literate, I could not remember how to get my project to print as a book. Finally, a friend, not as computer literate as me, told me what I need to do. Duh!
Finally it was Christmas Day. Sitting before me, with brown eyes looking intently at me as I knelt on the floor, was my ten-year-old grandnephew, Nate. That was what I wanted. I wanted him to understand the significance of the gift he was going to receive. It was not a Nintendo game or a Wii.
“Nate, I understand you like to read books about World War 2,” I said as I looked squarely into his eyes. He nodded his head. “First, I want you to open your gifts.” He did and seemed genuinely appreciative. “Now,” I began again and handed him another present. “This little book is about your great-grandparents. Your dad’s grandparents, your grampa’s mom and dad. I want you to know the circumstances of your great-grandfather receiving the Purple Heart." On the cover of the book entitled The Memoirs of Norman and Clara (Burton) Welch was a picture of his great-grandparents. A more attentive person couldn't have had been sitting before me. “I hope you'll like the book, Nate.”
Already paging through the book, he answered, “Oh, I will.”
In my fifty plus years of life, I've given and received lots of gifts. However, this was a gift that was truly from the heart. Nate will know more about his great-grandparents than I knew about my great-grandparents.
My parents are deceased. They made every Christmas special even when we had very little. However, I am what I am today because they taught me the importance of morality and of my mother's Christian witness. It was the greatest gift I could have received and pass along to my family.
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