The summer after I turned 10, a lot of things changed.
My dad was informed that he would be laid off for a total of 5 months while the plant he worked at was being remodeled. (or something!!) Just a few days before my dad’s last day of work before the layoff, we got the call that my grandpa had passed away.
My grandpa had been a smoker, was on oxygen and had limited mobility. He always slept in a chair, and the night that he passed away, he had gotten up to use the bathroom and when he came back, he parked his wheel chair on his oxygen tube. My grandpa suffocated. (This is my understanding of the story — I may be wrong.)
Dad missed his last couple of days of work so we could go to the funeral.
Shortly after this, we began another year of home school. Dad entertained Timmy and listened to conservative talk radio (to this day, Rush Limbaugh makes me want to puke) while the rest of us did school work. My oldest brother got to dissect frogs and worms and fish that year in his science class, and the whole family got together to do what Timmy called “an esperience” (toddler slang for “experiment.”)
I have some great memories from this period of my life.
My dad has always been involved in the lives of people who experience disabilities. Every Tuesday, he would pick up a friend from church, Jerry, and take him grocery shopping and to do laundry. I remember one Tuesday, Dad came home with a few enormous Red Delicious apples. We had been eating beans and rice (or beets and potatoes) for a while, so we were overjoyed that we each got half of a crisp, sweet, delicious red apple for a snack the next day.
Thanksgiving came and went with little or no fanfare.
And then it was Christmas.
As Christmas cards began to arrive in our mail box, no doubt my parents were worrying about how they were going to keep the heat on, food on the table AND buy Christmas presents for us kids.
One day, a big, fat envelope arrived in our mail box. It was from someone I didn’t even know and who hadn’t been in contact with my family for years. Mom opened the envelope and pulled out a huge stack of hundred dollar bills and a letter that said that they had finished remodeling their house and had money left over and felt led to send the left overs to us. I don’t know if they knew what we were going through, but we were so very grateful.
We had food on our table every day, our house was warm, the lights were on, and we even got Christmas presents that year.
On Christmas Day, our neighbor came over with gifts and an enormous turkey. Grandma and Grandpa and several other family members sent gifts. Our little tree had stacks and stacks of presents under it. We opened gift after gift as the aroma of that turkey wafted through the house. After the gifts were opened, some of the boys and I donned 3 pairs of our new Christmas socks, our new Christmas sweaters and mittens, grabbed our ice skates and ran over to the little ice rink a couple of blocks away to play while we waited for the turkey to cook.
That afternoon and evening, we all sat together in our living room and listened to Dad read “Little Britches” and then I crawled under the blankets on the floor in my brothers’ room (we weren’t heating my room at that time) and thought about how sad it was that such a wonderful day was over. It was a day completely unlike what I considered an “ideal” Christmas — but in many ways, it was the best Christmas ever.