I did not know it would be the last Christmas with my grandfather, I wonder now if he knew it would be and that was the reason he tried to make it so special?
Until I started writing this story just now at this moment, it never occurred to me that he might have known he had cancer and was dying that winter because the following summer on my 9th birthday he died.
I was 8 years old and I was in West Virginia visiting my grandfather with my grandmother. My parents hadn’t arrived yet; they were coming down on Christmas day. I remember the thick green shag carpet and the smell of cigarettes and cologne that permeated the walls like it was yesterday.
My grandfather was a collector of Avon cologne bottles… many of you may not know this unless you are my age or older but back in the day Avon used to sell these really cool bottles of men’s cologne and it stank but the bottles were what you wanted. They came in all shapes and forms and he had them all. He had these shelves that lined his living room back wall and they were stacked full of them, I used to play with them when I visited.
I would set up my Barbie’s and pull down the bottles shaped like cars and horses and play dolls with them. He had this one that was a made to look like a western gun that I kept when he died but it was lost in the shuffle of moving one year… I still have one of them though, the Moose! I will post a picture of it later when I get home… it is the only thing I have left of him besides a gutting knife he used when he would go fishing and it’s such a great thing to have because it was a part of my childhood playing with that moose bottle.
Well to get back to my story, I eight years old and nearly out of my believing in Santa phase, in fact that was the last Christmas I half-heartedly believed. I was laying on the green shag carpet playing with his bottles and my dolls while we watched some holiday program and it was xmas eve and dark outside. My grandpa got up and went to the bathroom, all I will say about that is that when he went in there he was usually gone for a while so what happened next was both confusing and exciting.
All of a sudden I heard bells and what sounded like footsteps on the ROOF! I sat up and listened and looked at my grandma, “did you hear that?” I asked as I looked around the room as if to discover the bells behind the curtain’s… There it was again, bells and footsteps on the roof!!! I ran to the front door and looked out the window and didn’t see anything… I wanted to believe it was Santa but where was grandpa I asked? As I ran around the house like a lunatic…I was too excited at the possibility that it was Santa that I gave up on the notion that it was grandpa and let myself believe he was in the bathroom missing all the fun.
My grandma ushered me to the back door and we went out onto the porch and to my surprise and amazement there was a large sack of gifts sitting there! I had never seen anything like it in my life! I had never been so excited and happy in all my life (as short as it was at 8 years old)
When we came back into the house with the sack of gifts my grandpa was sitting back in his chair in the living room…I can still see his face and the way he looked at me down over his glasses when I ran in followed by my grandma and the sack. “Well, he said… what are you waiting for?” I ripped into that bag and opened those gifts as fast as my hands would unwrap everything. Of course everything I asked for was in that bag, Santa knew what I wanted. It was the most exciting Christmas I ever had in my whole life and I was 8 years old.
It was the last Christmas I ever got to spend with my grandpa…and part of me thinks he knew it would be…part of me knows that he wanted to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in my heart and for me to believe in those magical moments and that is why he put on a show for me and made it the most memorable holiday of my life.
My grandmother told me a few years later when I asked because I had realized what really happened that when we went onto the back porch he snuck back in through the front door and that was how he was there waiting when we came back in…
I like to think that he is up there somewhere watching over me and that he knows how special he made that last Christmas and how it has never left my heart and how I think of it and remember him each and every year.
Here is the Moose cologne decanter… I wish I had pictures of all the ones he had, they were amazing.