The Blank Who Stole Christmas This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 13, 2010
My dad puts his fingers up to his earlobe, pulls twice. His left hand's index finger and thumb are put to work again, quickly enveloping the flesh on his right forearm, before releasing. Silently, his face crumples in pain. "Sounds like pinch!" my grandfather exclaims. “The blank Who Stole Christmas. The blank rhymes with pinch, rhymes with pinch, pinch…” He reviews aloud what he has so far of my father’s charade and I notice that my grandfather is in fact losing his memory.

The day before, my fragile 90-year-old grandfather called me onto the porch where he was creaking on the glider. He sipped his Scotch while I talked.

“I had a flute recital yesterday. It’s a shame you couldn’t have come, everyone played some great pieces.” I paused, thinking about what else was new. “Oh! I have a trip to Peru coming up. I’m going with a few of my friends so it should be fun! Um,” I had blanked on the recent events of my life, temporarily however. “What’s new with you?”

My question opened up the floor for musings on his favorite subject, his own life. He prefaced his latest development by disclosing that he had not yet told my father what he was about to tell me. I inched forward in my plastic lawn chair, as my grandfather began.

"Recently, I've noticed my memory starting to go. I can't recall the names of people that I used to work with everyday. Fortunately, I can remember family and close friends' names, but it's still disconcerting. I'm getting old!"

My mind flashes back seven years. I hold a cordless receiver to my ear, prancing around my living room as my grandfather, a retired actor from LA, instructs me on inflection and memorization. My grandfather is helping me practice lines for an elementary school play audition, but at the time I don’t fully appreciate his advice.

“When you repeat ‘home’ say it with more conviction,” my grandfather advises.

“How’s this? ‘But anyway, Toto, we're home! Home.’ Was that better?” I hint.

“It’s getting there,” he answers.

A few years earlier, my grandfather flies into town for a week and graciously presents old movie clips of himself to my second grade class. When the time comes and my grandfather shows the old footage of himself, I suddenly become embarrassed. For as long as I can remember, I bragged about my grandfather, the actor.

But in this moment I realize that others might not be so easily impressed. My pride wears off and in the dark I look around my classroom nervously anticipating 7 year-old faces full of ennui and disinterest. I am relieved that no one looks outright bored; still the significance of the situation, a legitimate actor in their second grade classroom, seems to be lost on them.

That self-conscious little seven year old is now a high school student. While she is no less insecure, she has gained a valuable lesson from her grandfather. Unintentionally, my grandfather teaches me to enjoy life’s fleeting moments, as he calls out, “Grinch!” And I find myself smiling, realizing that my grandfather has remembered.

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