Christmas Vacation (Not the Clark Griswold/Cousin Eddie type)

There have been many times during this journey when I thought of something to do or the family thought of something and we didn’t get right on it and realized the clock’s not waiting for anyone. Our Christmas vacation is a good example. Once we got going on the planning, we went after it full speed ahead. Tom, Leslie and I did an Internet search of nearly every 4-6 bedroom house in south Florida. We were looking for specific bedroom configurations in the southern half of the State. Just when we didn’t think there were anymore properties to look at, a unique property in West Palm Beach came online. It had the right number of sleeping spaces, a pool and was priced right so we made the payment and waited for Christmas to come.

We all decided to drive as airfare was prohibitive. Each family took varying amounts of time to get there but all arrived within an hour of one another, arriving Saturday December 26th. The configuration was just what we had thought would work best for us. Sue and I got the biggest bedroom and smallest bathroom. If I hadn’t seen it, I would not have believed you could put a sink, stool and shower in a 4×6 space. I’ve seen bigger bathrooms on a cruise ship. Now that I’m no longer the big guy, but rather the medium guy, it was space enough for me. There were 17 of us, all enjoying each other’s company at the pool, the beach or just grocery shopping.

We ate well, watched plenty of football, got sun, saw some fantastic hotels, homes, and cars (even saw where The Donald has his home).

If you’re ever counting on God to answers your prayers, this trip is a perfect example. He kept me in good health, able to travel, and spend quality time with Sue, Leslie (Mark), Sara and Tom (Tasha) and all my grandkids.

While we were there, my grandchildren presented me a scrapbook of their thoughts of their time with me as grandpa/papa. I plan to publish here excerpts from the book in order to share my wonderful relationship with my wonderful grandkids.

The following is from my granddaughter Lydia

A Letter to the Grampster from the Lidster

Debts: $20 owed – Lids to Gramps; summer 2005

Repayment: Outstanding

For years I’ve been waiting for the day I can pay you back $20 worth of cable car rides.

I’ve thought about that day – the day I could show you how far I’ve come, how much you’ve helped me grow since my high school graduation so many years ago. You would visit and I would proudly hand you those green, cardboard billets that meant a full week of exploration via cable car (those were the days – a one way ride costs $7 now!), repaying my debt on that stack of tickets lost to the streets of Union Square on a chilly San Francisco morning.

But recently I’ve been thinking of a different way to honor the extra few dollars you spent on me that day to make sure I had such a wonderful trip. I’m going to pay it forward.

One day I hope I’ll be lucky enough to have an eager Granddaughter, who can’t wait to ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, the promise of redwoods and miles of Pacific views on the other side (San Francisco hills be darned), who is eager to try all the food in Chinatown and a cool little diner next to the hotel. Maybe she’ll feel like she’s old enough to explore Fisherman’s Wharf alone and I’ll let her… even though I’ll text her every 20 minutes to make sure she’s ok – because after all, she can’t keep track of her cable car tickets for more than 5 minutes. I’m going to pay it forward to her.

Yes – I’m going to pay it forward, the memories of trips to the Big Apple and nightly pleas to see the sensational lights of Times Square. Memories of Broadway, dessert at 11pm and Katz’s hotdogs for breakfast. Memories of extra trips to the Hershey’s store for all the free chocolate and can there really be that many different colors of M&M’s? Maybe she’ll have her first celebrity sighting, seeing Melanie Griffith at Tavern on the Green (even though the Grampster might insist it isn’t her – the Granddaughter and Grandma always will know it was). Maybe she’ll even be so excited that when they emerge in Newark she’ll be floored, thinking this is it because she’s never been to the big city before. But then, passing through the Lincoln Tunnels she won’t believe her eyes when she sees the real thing. I bet I’ll share her pure joy as she sees it for the first time.

I’ll pay it forward, taking her cruising across the Caribbean, hopefully avoiding a seven mile beach hike of tears along the way. I’ll pay it forward making her feel loved and a part of a wonderful family, always setting aside time to spend with her on Thanksgiving and Christmas, always making sure to be there for the important things – the first communions, the birthdays, the soccer games, the graduations. And maybe most importantly, I’ll pay it forward by making sure to always take her out for ice cream, even secretly when mom says no, even if she’s a Colts fan .

I’m so lucky to have such a loving Grandfather with which to share such wonderful times. And I think I understand now – the Grampster wasn’t that mad he had to buy an extra $20 cable car pass – because $20 was easily worth it to ride those cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf, to rent those bikes that took so much effort to get up that hill, to make it across the windswept Golden Gate Bridge, because that’s a memory the Grampster and the Lidster can cherish forever.

Biking the Golden Gate is my favorite summer activity now that I live in San Francisco – how could it not be when the first time was so great?

Love you Grandpa,

The Lidster

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