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THE LAST WORD

Memories of faces at family gatherings bring holiday smiles

Saturday, November 30, 2013 - 12:01 am

Christmas and Hanukkah, perhaps more than other times or holidays, have us recalling family gatherings with delicious meals, faces of relatives young and old.

We try to remember voices and moments we’d give anything to have back. We recall holiday windows so long ago and Santa Claus bigger than life .We laugh at antlers on dogs and enjoy flash mobs singing carols in shopping malls. Our memories may go back decades or just last year.

On an early snowfall day, I enjoyed daydream minutes and seeing my dad decorating our home and mom in her baking mode. Memories surfaced of every face at family gatherings for Christmas dinners, every silly thing said or done by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I loved them all.

Aunt Marge, by far, seemed to work her way into my Christmas column. She always had numerous things to share with everyone, including her new, easy gripping medicine caps, stories of buying slip covers for her furniture, old neighbors she disliked because the lady wore old dresses or ones sized three times smaller. One elderly relative always cornered me and wanted to talk about Heaven, all while blowing his pipe smoke in my direction. He always wanted me to guess how many real teeth he had left.

My grandpa had a trick whereby he’d twist his ear and we’d scream or laugh as his dentures would pop out. Many gatherings had living rooms so smoke-filled we couldn’t see the Christmas tree at times. We always had one or too elderly uncles who cleared the chairs and stools to show us new dance steps.

Everyone clapped until someone yelled “timber.” I felt bad for the tree.

Following dinner, a few elderly relatives wanted to join the kids in making snow angels one year. When you’re 80, getting up from the snow takes creativity and passing gas was loud and clear. Losing a hearing aid in 5 inches of snow was a bummer, too.

Memories of my favorite toys included drawing sets, the Big Bruiser tow truck with working everything and a Strombecker race car track. The best cookie was the covered icing kind and the Mexican Wedding cake cookie. Egg nog and anything chocolate rounded out the food list. When I am invited to address a group, the two words I use often are “blessed” and “grateful.”

Having dual prosthetic arms and not being the tallest in our family has maybe helped me see a world in special ways .Accomplishing goals set, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and not taking people or things for granted are always part of my Christmas. Professor Tom Deagostino and engineering students at Trine University gave me a life-changing gift in July, an incredible shower unit. I am so grateful.

My twin and other brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends mean everything to me. If you or Santa can’t give everything on others’ lists, just remind them with a hug and a smile of everything and everyone they already have.

Merry Christmas everyone, and let’s lift our glasses high and toast for a happy new year!

Terry E. Haffner is a resident of Fort Wayne.