Merry Christmas, Grandpa

As I was writing Christmas letters this week, I came to Grandpa and Grandma’s address. After a moment of sadness that Grandma was gone and wouldn’t read it this year – I thought of Grandpa.

He’s spending his first Christmas alone without Grandma in over 60 years. I wish I was closer so I could spend some time with him. I wish I could bring him home with me for a few hours on Christmas Day.

But most of all – I wish he remembered me.

Alzheimer’s is cruel.

But if Christmas wishes did come true – and I could give Grandpa a hug in person and have his eyes light up in recognition, this is what I would tell him…

Hey Grandpa!

It’s me, Melinda. I’m one of Shirley’s girls. Remember me? I’m the one who drove the car into the side of your granary.

I just wanted to say thank you for making Christmas at your house so wonderful.

From the moment we drove in, you made me feel loved.

You remembered how scared I was of dogs so you tied him up before I got there. You didn’t want me to be afraid to get out of the car. Poor Smoke – he wouldn’t hurt a flea, but you wanted me to feel safe.

You were the one to open the door – standing in the cold Iowa winter to greet us. “Merry Christmas! Come on in! Did Santa come last night?”

A tickle, a tease, a hug and we were swept inside.

That old farmhouse was warm and full of noise and activity. Aunts and uncles and cousins filled the table in the dining room and spilled out into the living room. And there you were – larger than life in, the middle of everything, teasing,  laughing, loving us.

Christmas at Grandpa's

When the meal was over – you took your self-appointed place at the kitchen sink and washed the dishes.

Every dish. And with a smile on your face.

When we were really young, it seemed like dishes took forever and kept us waiting to open presents. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand that the act of washing dishes was a present – a sweet and priceless gift you gave Grandma every Christmas. And I loved you even more for it.

I can still see you standing by that sink, Grandpa, wearing your good bib overalls with the sleeves of your shirt rolled up, your hands deep in the soapy water.

A picture of love. Commitment. Sacrifice.

I remember your small living room being literally covered with family members. All sitting around your tiny silver metallic tree, dwarfed by all the gifts.

You and grandma sat side by side as you announced, “We need to pass out some presents!”

I looked forward to opening your gift every year, Grandpa. I know you picked it out – Grandma always told us. The two of you would go to Dralle’s Department Store in Greene and you bought us clothes – real store bought clothes. For kids whose mom made all their clothes – from swimsuits to snow pants – your gift was such a treat! And you have such good taste!

My all-time favorite was the rainbow striped sweater. It was a sad day when I outgrew it.

You really knew how to give gifts, Grandpa. I think that’s because you have such a big heart.

Christmas presentsI miss you Grandpa.

I thought of you when I took our Sunday School kids to the nursing home to perform our Christmas Program. I hoped there were kids at your nursing home who sang for you.

When the singing was over and I walked around the room greeting the residents, I missed you.

As I looked in their eyes, took their hands and said “Merry Christmas”, I prayed that there was someone holding your hand this Christmas.

Someone looking in your eyes and saying “Merry Christmas”.

Someone to make you feel special.

And loved.

The way you made us feel – every year.

I love you Grandpa.

Merry Christmas.

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes With the Holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about comfort foods!

And what’s more comforting than a bowl of  mashed potatoes, just dripping with butter or gravy?

As much as I love them, I will admit that I don’t enjoy all the last minute fuss they call for – or the messy kitchen they leave behind.

But then I discovered how easy it was to make them ahead in the crock pot! Now I can make a batch on Saturday, put it in the crock pot liner in the refrigerator, and pull it out Sunday morning before I leave for church.  It cooks in the crock pot on low all morning and we have hot and tasty mashed potatoes for lunch!

I’ll do the same for our Thanksgiving meal and even our Christmas Eve supper.

Don’t want to use the crock pot? No problem! They can be baked in a casserole pan at 350 degrees until they are heated through.

My mother-in-law even makes them weeks ahead and freezes them in 9 x 13 aluminum foil pans. She just sets them out the day before to thaw and bakes them normally.

The recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled, just add some extra cooking time.

Follow the recipe carefully and don’t add milk or the end product will be too runny!

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 cups warm mashed potatoes (prepared without milk or butter)

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, and butter. Stir in potatoes. Transfer to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Or put in a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.

If frozen, allow to thaw before baking.

Enjoy!