Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Grandfather Christmas" Story

There were a couple people who wanted to read the Christmas story I wrote for my church's Christmas Eve service, which went very well by the by. I felt like I read well and got a good reaction from people who said they loved the story. So yay me! For those few people who were away at Christmas, and maybe a few others who like reading heartwarming stories, here she be:

~ Grandfather Christmas ~

Gregory only had a week to find his brother a Christmas present. His little brother Leon was missing a kidney and often sick and Gregory felt it was his job as the older brother to take care of him despite the closeness of their age — Gregory was nine and three quarters, Leon was eight and a half.

“What do you want for Christmas?” Gregory asked his brother over breakfast. The advent calendar showed seven more sleeps to go.

“I dunno. What do you want?”

Gregory frowned. He was convinced that Leon’s lack of knowing things was the sole cause of his frown crease between his eyebrows. “Well, what did you put on your Christmas list?”

“I can’t remember; Mom has it,” Leon said.

“You must know something that you want,” Gregory said. “Leon, listen to me.” He had found the best way to get Leon’s attention was to emphasize things as dramatically as possible. He waited until Leon, mid-spoonful to the mouth, looked up at him. “What do you want most in the entire world if you could have anything that you ever wanted?”

Gregory pushed his glasses up his nose with a middle finger. “A dad? Like, any dad?”

“No, like my dad,” Leon said. “I want my dad for Christmas.”

Though they would never admit to it, Leon and Gregory were only half brothers and neither of their fathers had stuck around. Gregory knew the absence of a father gave them a disadvantage to other kids, like trees battered by the wind without the roots of both parents to hold them down. But he also knew that to make up for it, they had a Father in Heaven, a stronger root they could hold on to through wind and rain and snow much deeper than the measly inch of white on their lawn.

Leon said, “Do you think Santa can do that? Get me my dad for Christmas?”

Gregory bit his lip. “Santa’s good, but I don’t think he’s that good, you know? We’ll have to take this to someone bigger. The Big Cheese.” Gregory had once heard his teacher call the principal “the big cheese” and when he asked what that meant, she said it meant the person in charge.

“Do you mean Mom?” Leon said, skeptical.

“No, I mean the Boss.”

“Isn’t Mom the boss?”

“I mean the bigger boss, God.”

“Oh, right.” Leon took a second to think. Then, squinting, “Why is God called the Big Cheese?”

“I guess because cheese is good and God is good too.”

Gregory was older than the average nine-and-three-quarter-year-old and sometimes things came out of his mouth that seemed far too intelligent for a man of his size. Most of the time his mother merely watched him in awe and wondered if she was living up to his expectations. He tried to be easy on her just like he was patient with Leon when he answered questions with “I don’t know.”

That night Gregory prayed that God would give Leon his dad for Christmas. Then, reasoning that his mother’s help couldn’t hurt, quietly got out of bed, put on his glasses with a determined air and went downstairs.

Gregory crept in on a heartwarming scene of his mother amidst the anticipation of Christmas —twinkling lights and brightly colored ornaments glittered on their artificial tree, under which sat two mysterious presents waiting for little hands. On the table a nativity scene where the figurines of Jesus, his mother and father, the angel, Wise men, shepherds and animals, showed signs of Gregory and Leon’s play as they acted out the Christmas story, and seeing this sight before him, Gregory was confident that anything could happen at Christmas.

“Mommy,” he said coming up softly towards her.

His mother turned to him. “Can’t you sleep?”

“Yes, but I have something I want to ask you.”

“Oh, okay,” she said and patted the seat beside her on the couch.

Gregory was glad she didn’t say what she often said, which was, “Can it wait 'til morning?” Didn’t she know that by tomorrow he would probably forget?

“Mom, where is Leon’s dad?” Gregory asked.

His mother hesitated. “Honey, Leon’s dad died when you were little. Don’t you remember me telling you?”

Now that she said this Gregory thought he might remember, but evidently he had forgotten. He didn’t think he had the heart to tell Leon he wouldn’t get his dad for Christmas and decided to tell his mother about their conversation that morning.

“He told you he wanted his dad for Christmas?” she said frowning.

Gregory nodded.

“We’ll just have to make sure this Christmas is a really special one, okay?”

“Okay,” Gregory said. She kissed him and he went to bed with a heavy little heart.

 But the seed had been planted in his mother’s and as it grew, Leon’s wish for Christmas adjusted to the change like a tree evolving to its surroundings. Leon’s father, Ted, had been set on a path of destructive behavior that God had saved her from. She had been so hurt when Ted had accused her of getting pregnant with Leon on purpose, some single mother’s desperate attempt to try and tie him down, and he left her before Leon was born, not wanting anything to do with his son. But she remembered Ted’s father, who would be Leon’s grandfather, had been a nice man. Her own father had died many years ago before she had the boys, and she rarely saw her mother. Gregory and Leon could use some good family.

There was someone she could call, an old friend who had known Ted.

“Don’t you know it?” her friend said over the phone. “Ted’s dad plays the Santa at the mall.”

“What does he look like now?” she asked.

“Well, when I saw him, a lot like Santa.”

“That helps.”

Her friend laughed. “Let’s see, he’s got slightly darker skin, lots of wrinkles, a big salt and pepper beard, but he still looks just the same as he did when Ted was alive. Big smile, that funny mole below his eye.”

They wished each other a Merry Christmas and set a date to see each other. On her lunch hour Gregory’s mother went to the mall and scrutinized the Santa Claus sitting on his throne with a lineup of kids in front of him. He fit the description of Leon’s grandfather exactly. She waited until he was free before approaching him and introducing herself, and watched his wizened face as understanding set in. The twinkle in his eye was now from the flood of memories that brought tears to his eyes, and were betrayed in his wiry eyebrows and twitching mouth.

When she got home she sat Gregory down and said, “Maybe we can’t get Leon a dad for Christmas, but maybe we can get him a grandpa.”

She explained to a puzzled Gregory that she had called her friend and found out Leon’s grandpa worked as Santa at the mall, how she’d spoken with him and he was willing to meet them. To which Gregory replied, “Santa is Leon’s grandpa?”

“Not the real one, he just plays him at the mall,” she said, laughing.

She had always made it clear to her boys that the true story of Christmas was the birth of their savior Jesus, that God-turned-baby-in-a-manger miracle that reconciled God to His creation, but she hadn’t deprived her sons the fun of believing in a kind man in red who gave presents to good little girls and boys.


The next day Gregory and Leon waited with their mother in the Santa line-up as around them swarmed the bustling of Christmas shoppers. Garlands, Christmas trees and snowflakes dangled from the ceiling, transforming the mall into a Christmas haven, and in one corner a group of carolers stood in old-fashioned costumes singing “Silent Night.” When Gregory looked around he didn’t see the monster of consumerism, all he could see was a place where Christmas was celebrated impressively and through his innocent eyes he thought that if a miracle was going to happen it just might happen here.

The Santa in front of them was not the classic St. Nicholas, but when he spoke it was the heartiest sound you ever heard, and a slightly mysterious note ran through his voice like music from the North Pole. Finally the boy in front of Leon was finished and Leon shyly went to sit on Santa’s lap, neither of them knowing their relationship to each other. When Santa asked Leon what he wanted for Christmas, he said a Hot Wheels car track. His mother had told him what happened to his dad, something he dimly remembered her telling him before, but the fact that a father he had never known had died hadn’t meant a whole lot when he was younger. When people had asked him where his dad was, Leon simply said he didn’t have one, like he didn’t have two kidneys. It had always been that way.

Then it was Gregory’s turn and Leon ran back to where his mother stood out of Santa’s sight. Gregory was glad Leon wouldn’t be able to hear him as Santa picked him up and plopped him on his knee.

“And what is your name young man?” Santa said. He smelt like laundry detergent and minty breath and Gregory noticed the mole under his brown eye.

“Gregory,” he said. “And that was my brother Leon.”

“Oh I see! And what do you want for Christmas?”

“Well, it’s complicated.” Santa smiled to himself. “What I want for Christmas is actually what my brother wants for Christmas, but not what he said he wanted to you, what he really wants, in here,” Gregory said and put a hand to his heart.

In his uncomfortably warm red suit and droopy red hat Santa couldn’t help thinking it was interesting kids like this that made his job worth it.

“The only thing is,” Gregory continued, “what he really wants he can’t have. He wanted a dad but his dad died, so instead we thought, me and my mom, that maybe instead of a dad, if we got him a grandpa he would be happy. We want to make him happy because Leon is always sick because of his one kidney.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Santa said, feeling a tingling sense of insight after his talk with that woman the day before. “That sounds like a lot for a young boy to carry around. And you’re hoping I can get him a grandpa for Christmas?”

“I know it’s not exactly in Santa’s job description.”

Santa chuckled. “Hmmm, well maybe Santa’s elves—”

“I don’t think so,” Gregory interrupted him. “This is too big for them. Only God can do it and He led us to you. We thought you might know Leon’s grandpa because he plays Santa at a mall like you. His son’s name was Ted, Leon’s dad who died. We thought if Leon’s grandpa knew he had a grandson who needed a grandpa – well, you can never have too much family.”

Santa smiled. “But what about you?” he said. “Isn’t there anything that you want for Christmas?”

“Yes, but I’ll be happy if Leon is happy,” Gregory said.

He looked up from Gregory’s sincere face and anxiously searched for the woman who had approached him the day before. “Is your mother here?” he said.

Gregory pointed and Santa turned in his seat. There she was and there was the little boy, his grandson, who had just minutes ago been sitting on his knee without him knowing it.

“But other than getting Leon his Christmas present,” Gregory said, “the second-most thing I really want for Christmas is a pet pig.”

Santa burst into laughter, his bowl full of jelly shaking Gregory on his knee like the tremors of an earthquake. Then he was engulfing Gregory in a hug that slightly alarmed the parents waiting patiently in line. He put Gregory down and got him to bring his mother and brother over.

“Jenna,” Santa said and hugged Gregory’s mother. “Your boy here is quite extraordinary,” he said, motioning to Gregory. Then looking at Leon, “And this is him?”

“Yes,” she said, clinging to her boys for support just as they did to her. She moved her hand to Leon’s shoulder. “This is Leon, your grandson.”

Now that he knew, he saw clearly so much of his son in Leon’s little features and he wondered how he could possibly have missed it the first time. “Hello again Leon,” Santa said to him and, bending down to his eye level, whispered, “Don’t tell the other kids, but I’m not the real Santa. My real name is Harold and I was your dad’s father. That makes me your grandfather.”

Leon looked up at Santa and his large eyes blinked in bewilderment.

Standing up, Santa said to Jenna, “You do look different, you know – better, I mean. I didn’t recognize you when I first saw you.”

“I am different,” she said and put her hand on Gregory’s shoulder so that both hands held her sons. “After my dad died, God gave me hope when I felt like I had nothing left, and then raising two children on my own – He just – He showed me what He wanted my life to look like. And it was a life with purpose.” Jenna got teary-eyed but she was still smiling and Gregory knew her tears were good tears. “Sorry,” she said and wiped them away.

Leon’s grandpa shook his head. “Don’t be. In fact, just the day before you talked to me I was feeling so angry with God for taking Ted away all over again, and look, now He’s given me you.” He stood admiring the newly grafted branches of his family tree. “I always knew Ted had a son and was so disappointed in him for not being a father to him. But just look! Now I’ve got two grandsons when before I had none,” he said to the boys and put a hand on them as well. Leon could only look up at him in awe.

“Even me?” Gregory said.

Santa bent down to him, that twinkle in his eye, and said, “Even you.”

Gregory’s joy was complete — not only had God answered his prayers for Leon’s present, he had got Gregory a grandpa as well. On Christmas Eve as the snow fell thickly outside, the boys came in for dinner at their new grandfather’s house with rosy cheeks from playing in the snow and felt the warmth from the fireplace and the love of family, and as a family, they praised the God who had brought them together.
Leon blinked and moved his eyes up to the far right with a tilt to his skinny face, as if he was searching his brain for the folder named “Deepest Wants and Desires.” Finally, he said, “I want a dad.”


  1. I loved the story when you read it on Christmas Eve. I just read it again, and it is still awesome. Thanks for posting it so others can enjoy it too.