My favorite Christmas memory happened yesterday. That says a lot, seeing that my family (which includes my in-laws) has lots of Christmas traditions a get-togethers, and I’ve been a part of so many of them.
Still, what happened yesterday will be forever etched in my mind and heart and will forever be the defining moment of Christmas 2009 for me.
My grandmother has been in this hospital for the past two weeks. At 88, any hospital time is naturally going to be touch and go. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I’ve been freaked out and worried at the same time.
My grandfather is 90 and is suffering from dementia. On Christmas Day, I had to be introduced to him as I would to a person I just met for the first time. That’s hard, considering we’re talking about a man who taught me how to fish, how to play horseshoes, came and got me when I was homesick after my first few weeks of college and always hooked me up with extra custard after dinner.
This year, my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. And they still hold hands.
For the past two weeks, my grandparents have been separated, which is the longest stretch they’ve ever been apart since they got married.
On Christmas Day, we picked my grandfather up from the nursing home he lives in and brought him to the hospital where my grandmother is staying.
The two of them locked eyes, and my grandfather reached his hand out to his Rosie. And she looked at him and said, “After 65 years, we finally found each other.”
For a moment, my grandfather was in the present. All of a sudden, to the best of his ability, he recognized us and knew we were his family. He knew we loved him. And better yet, he remembered how much he loved us.
But even more so, he knew how much he loved his Rose, and we could tell how much Rose loved her Charlie.
We sat and visited and talked about all the different things that have happened in all of our lives. My mom got ice cream for everyone, my sister grabbed coffee for those of us who wanted some, and my father helped the hospital staff clean up the cafeteria after lunch.
It was almost normal, about as close to the memories I have about sitting in my grandparents’ house having a traditional Christmas dinner, with my grandpa forking over a couple extra helpings of custard on my plate.
When it was time to leave, I saw my grandfather look into my grandmother’s eyes and say goodbye, for now. Then I saw him retreat into the world his dementia has created for him.
However, no matter what the future brings, nothing will ever take that day away from me, or my grandparents. It was that day that things seemed somewhat normal, even if it was for a few hours.
It was a day I saw two people who have been married for 65 years fall in love all over again.
Two people who still hold hands.