A Christmas Visit Brings Christmas Magic
By Alexis Mercer
The holidays have always been magical for me. As I grow older and celebrate with my husband and my own children, the magic multiplies.
I am lucky enough to have one of my grandparents who is still with us. He happens to be 97 years old. A WWII Vet, he served in the Marine Corps at Iwo Jima. He’s a true American hero.
Recently I loaded my two boys into the Jeep and...
...took off for the East side of the state to celebrate an early Christmas with him on the day my sister and her husband would be flying in from Pennsylvania for the holidays.
My kids always enjoy visiting ‘Grandpa Mack,’ as they call him. His arms envelop them in hugs, and he will hold their hands and examine how they’ve grown since the last time he saw us.
We have been saying for 7 years "this could be our last visit, so we have to make it count.” And yet each time we drive away saying he looks better than ever even if he has slowed down to a crawl from his once steady, active pace.
Stories are my very favorite part of visiting. When we were younger, his stoic side often prevailed. But in recent years, he has told many tales of his youth and adventures. So when I asked him about his favorite Christmas memory, we sat around his chair and devoured every word of a time from long ago.
“Oh I definitely have a favorite Christmas memory,” he said, with a grand smile on his face. We all leaned in, hardly breathing, not wanting to miss any details.
“My brother Bob gave me a transformer for Christmas when I was at the beginning of my amateur radio,” began his story. I was sure my 6 year old Jack was thinking of the television show Transformers, but thankfully he just listened intently without interrupting.
“600 volts either side of center tap. 200 mils,” he continued. I had absolutely no idea what those details meant, but I certainly loved the way he could remember the details as if he was there again.
“Receiving that gift kicked off my amateur radio career. It did me well all during the war.” So I asked him how old he was when this happened. “Oh I don’t know, maybe 21,” he said. “It was one of the components of the radio and I built around it. I had my own station after that. The first guy I talked to by radio was in Canal Zone.” It was then that I asked for clarification. “You mean the Panama Canal,” I questioned? He answered, “Yes, the Panama Canal. The first guy I ever heard and the first one that ever worked at that distance.”
“From there on,” he said, “I talked to every country in the world. All the European countries, South America, everywhere. It was a great hobby and turned out to be a profession for me. I did a lot of things because of that. I even worked on a radio aboard a ship (during WWII). They came and got me, put me on an elevator, took me to the top where all communications were. Sat me down and put my ‘cans’ on. That’s what we called earphones back then. I copied international Morse Code. They thanked me and sent me on my way.”
The look on his face was priceless as he told his tale. So nostalgic. Remembering a time 76 years prior when he received a simple gift that turned into so much more for him.
His license plate read W8RLH and is one of the things I will always remember about him: his HAM radio call number. Throughout the war he worked as a communications specialist, and after the war ended, he took a job with Detroit Edison, where he continued in the field of communications. And his retired license plate happens to hang just to the right of the chair where he sat to tell his story about the transformer that impacted his entire life.
These moments we are able to share with him are what Christmas is all about for me. The fact that my children are so blessed to be able to know their Great Grandfather from his own words is one of the most precious gifts they will ever receive.
And for me to be able to witness that gift is the true magic of the season.
Alexis Mercer is a Mom, Coach, Teacher, and N3 Contributor who enjoys running, swimming, biking, water skiing, snow shoeing, taking photographs and exploring with her three children, husband and extended family.