The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Last and First Christmas

By Deidre M. Thigpen © 1988

Issue: December, 1988

It was just beginning to snow as we pulled into Grandpa's yard. He had never had a driveway, everyone always parked in his yard.

The whole family was going to be here this Christmas, everyone but the children knew it might be Grandpa's last. We all wished we had gathered every year instead of waiting for what may be the last one.

Every since Granny passed on, Christmas wasn't the same; fewer people showed up each year, now here we all were again trying to be cheerful.

All of the kids were running around the house playing and eating candy. Every once in a while you would hear, "Charles David, don't run with candy in your mouth!" or "Betty quit running!" All of the kids wished that Christmas didn't have any "Don'ts" or "Quits" like every normal day.

Grandpa kept walking from room to room trying to keep up with the little ones, but they were too fast and would sometimes pass him on their second or third lap around the house. At least he was enjoying himself.

The last person to arrive, as usual, was Connie. Grandpa smiled as he went to help her from the car. "Is this young'un going to be a Christmas baby?" he asked. Connie smiled and said, "Grandpa, when he comes, he comes." Then they walked up to the house together.

After a lot of pestering from the kids, we served dinner so that they could open their presents after the dishes were done. When Connie and I entered the living room after putting away the dishes, we sat beside Grandpa's chair while he played Santa.

After everyone got their presents and the kids had ripped into theirs and went off to play with their new toys, we waited for Grandpa to open his presents.

He got a lot of clothes, and food packs. But Connie's present was something even more special. It was a card that said, "Grandpa, the doctor said the baby is going to be a boy and I'm going to name him Clayton John, after you."

I haven't seen Grandpa cry like that since Granny died, but at least these were happy tears.

When we were getting ready to leave, Connie went into labor. Grandpa just beamed, "I knew it was going to be a Christmas baby! Didn't I tell ya?"

We got Grandpa to lie down while Jean drove Connie to the Hospital. Later that evening when Connie had had the baby I went into Grandpa's room to wake him and tell him the news.

He was laying on top of the covers with a small wrapped present in his hands. The card said "Clayton John" on it. It was if he had known all along that it would be today.

I called to Grandpa, but he didn't stir. I figured he took his hearing aid out so I touched him. He was as cold as ice. I sat there and cried until Joey came up to check on us. Joey went to call an ambulance and I wondered if the new little Clayton would be anything like the old one.