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SPOT ON GRANNY—A MeMe Gives The Perfect Gift
The world needs more Melanie Moseleys.
Let me explain.
Ten months ago, after working as a stay-at-home mom for 25 years, I re-entered the workforce. I’d worked up my nerve and my resumé, and filled out an online application at the local hospital. With trepidation, I hit “submit” and within a few days I had an interview, a job offer, and a whole lot to learn.
So back to work I went.
Working in healthcare is a privilege. For the doctors and nurses, I think, it’s a calling, and for the rest of us it’s a way to help, to minister, and to serve people from all walks of life. It’s fast-paced, high-pressured, never dull. It’s constantly figuring out how to do more and more with less and less. It’s complicated and layered. Once you’ve worked in healthcare, you’ve encountered a depth of experience that differs from any other sector. The work can overwhelm, but so can the reward.
I’ve met many wonderful people since I returned to work. Our staff is hardworking, warm hearted, and whip smart. They are welcoming and kind, they are servants and leaders. They (we) are a team.
This brings me to Melanie Moseley.
Like me, Melanie works in a non-clinical position at our cancer center. One day during lunch, someone asked about her upcoming surgery. I perked up, hoping there was nothing seriously wrong.
Thankfully, nothing was.
In fact, the opposite was true. Melanie’s surgery was elective. She was giving something away, something so important that it would save the life of a very sick person.
Melanie had decided to donate a kidney.
But there was more.
Melanie had agreed to donate a kidney—to her ex-husband. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was confused and a little appalled. Why would she even consider doing that?
Because, I found out, that’s Melanie: she wasn’t thinking about herself, she was thinking of others. She was thinking of her grandchildren, her children, and yes, her ex-husband.
“Organ donation has always been important to me,” Melanie explained. “My mother’s sister was blind and that got my mother thinking. Mama always talked about wanting to be an organ donor.” Although Melanie’s mother was never able to donate, this seed of an idea had been planted in Melanie during childhood. When her ex-husband started on dialysis and it was clear he needed a kidney transplant fast, the idea began to grow into a possibility, maybe even an opportunity.
Without talking much about it, Melanie called the hospital and requested information about living donors. She studied the material and contemplated the reality of donation. She prayed about whether this was the right thing to do. Her answer came in the form of scripture.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well; —but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
James 2: 14-17
New Living Translation
“I really didn’t know if I would be a candidate, but I was sure I wouldn’t be a match for David.” Nonetheless, off Melanie went to get tested. She wanted to find out if being a donor was an option. She wanted to have faith combined with action. Even if she couldn’t donate a kidney to her ex-husband, donating to a stranger would not only help that person, but it would also move David closer to the top of the list.
“I got tested, and in less than a week I had my answer.”
“You are the perfect donor for your ex-husband.”
Melanie couldn’t believe it. The chances had been slim and yet, here she was, an exact match.When Melanie told David she wanted to give him a kidney, for a time, he said nothing.
After a while he spoke. “I don’t know if I can take your kidney.” But Melanie’s mind was made up and they moved forward, preparing for surgery.
Then the day arrived. Melanie packed her bags and drove north to the hospital where the surgeons would perform the transplant. She was actually going through with this. She checked into a hotel with her sister, who was more worried for Melanie than she was for herself. Feeling surprisingly calm and ready for the surgery, she went to sleep.
And then Melanie woke up.
The first words from her mouth were, “Did that kidney work?” The hospital staff told her it was the perfect kidney and that it was already “doing its thing”. Within minutes, it was functioning beautifully in its new body, filtering David’s blood.
Giving David life.
These days we are told to be strong, to set boundaries, to stand up for ourselves. Our culture teaches us to express our own voice, our own cause, our own passion. All these things have merit, but maybe, possibly, there’s more.
Setting aside our own agenda and thinking about what we can do for someone else while expecting nothing in return might really be the ultimate act for a human being.
I asked Melanie what made her consider risking her life to save someone that had caused her so much pain.
“I wanted to forgive, to do something I didn’t think I could do. I wanted to show God’s grace.”
She did that and more.
“You know when you leave this world, you can’t take anything with you. So why wouldn’t I give what I couldn’t take with me and try and save my children’s father and my grandchildren’s grandfather?”
As Melanie’s sister explained, “Melanie is filled with a kind of love most people never experience. It’s a kind of love that combines words with action. It doesn’t end because of pain. It endures through hard times, whatever they might be—differences, fights, disappointments, addictions, or even affairs. It’s real and it lasts forever. It’s unconditional.”
This kind of love is the perfect example of God’s grace, and God’s grace pouring through one of His children is glorious. Our world needs more people filled with this kind of love.
Our world needs more Melanie Moseleys.
If you or anyone you know is interested in organ donation, visit www.organdonor.gov for more information. Additionally, Melanie would be happy to talk to anyone interested in becoming a living donor. Submit your contact information through our “Contact” tab and she will be in touch with you.
SPOT ON GRANNY—One “Gamma”, Two Careers; She’s All That And More
THE GRANNY DIARIES: Today we are excited to talk to Sherry Johnston from Alexander City, AL, home of beautiful Lake Martin, NFL greats Terrell Owens and Justin Tuck, and just down the road from late actor/singer Jim Nabors’ hometown. Settle in while we learn about life and grandparenting in a small southern city.
Sherry, tell us a little about yourself. What do you spend your time doing?
SHERRY JOHNSTON: I have two full time jobs! I’m a cosmetologist at Studio SAM Hair Salon and I’m a realtor with Remax Around The Lake.
One of my favorite things to do is hang out with friends and family. My passion is helping other people. I enjoy relaxing in my pool and I go to the beach as often as I can. I love it there!
My favorite hobby is running—it keeps me in shape and it’s also my time to meditate and talk to God. I plan to start back soon and I’m going to train for my next Mud Run.
DIARIES: Do you have any special memories about your grandparents?
SHERRY: I was fortunate to have grown up with both sets of grandparents. I have so many special memories with them—so many it’s hard to choose.
My Grandma would let me sit in the middle of the kitchen table and help make biscuits, cakes, and cookies. I could paint the whole kitchen with flour and she would just laugh and say, “Sing me a song!”
Both of my PawPaws always told me I was their favorite (but they probably told all of us grandchildren that).
My PawPaw Bill would take me to the river on Sunday mornings before church. We’d get into our aluminum boat and check his trotlines. He taught me to bait a hook and skin a catfish. He even taught me how to rob a beehive and drive his old truck.
PawPaw Bill raised cattle. When I was little, he’d carry me on his hip to see a new calf every time one was born.
He also grew the largest watermelons I’d ever seen. He’d call me and say, “Okay Sherry, I’m getting the watermelon ready to cut.” I’d slam down the phone, and out the door I would run all the way to his house, which was about a mile away. As I ran down the driveway, I could see him sitting on the side of his porch with the watermelon, some newspaper (to put the seeds on to dry), a knife, two spoons, and salt. I’d start yelling, “I’m here PawPaw, I’m here!” He’d say, “You beat me again—I was just about to cut it!”
I’ll never forget the night he passed away. He was in the hospital. My family had been taking turns spending the night with him, and it was finally my turn again. I got to the hospital later than I wanted because of work and family obligations. When I arrived, the hallway outside his room was filled with my family and I started crying. Then, one by one, they told me, “He’s been calling your name and reaching for you all day.” He’d already slipped into a coma and hadn’t spoken a word in several hours. After hearing this, I ran into his room and to the far side of his bed where I threw myself across his chest.
I hugged him and said, “I’m here PawPaw! I’m here!”
And then something amazing happened. He said, “I love you. I love you. I love you!” He repeated it three times.
“I love you too, PawPaw. I always will.” He passed away only minutes later.
DIARIES: What a beautiful story. And what special relationships you had with your grandparents.
Tell us about your grandchildren. What are their names and ages?
SHERRY: I have two grandchildren—Cooper’s three and a half years old and Emma Cole just turned two. They are beautiful with their bright eyes and dimples so big that my whole finger will fit in. My grandchildren feel just like my very own children without going through the birthing process. It’s hard to describe, but the first time I held them, I swear fireworks shot from the top of my head right there in the hospital room. I just love them to death!
DIARIES: What’s your granny name and the story behind it?
SHERRY: They call me Gamma, and yes, there is a story behind that name. When my daughter Megan was expecting Cooper, I worked with a precious girl named Jessica. One day she told all of us that my Granny name should be Glamma because I was so glamorous. Although I loved it, I didn’t want everyone to think I thought I was “all that”, so I shortened it to Gamma.
DIARIES: What have been your favorite moments or memories with your grandchildren?
SHERRY: One of my favorite times with my grandchildren is when I get to their house, they hear me come in the back door, and they take off running towards me. They’re yelling, “Gamma, Gamma’s here,” and they grab me around the legs. I always tell them to never outgrow that. Another favorite moment for me is having them spend the night at my house and we all wake up in the same bed. The looks on their little faces are priceless. I also love story time because they both crawl up in my lap to see the pages of the book we’re reading. And of course, swimming pool time with Gamma is always a blast!
DIARIES: Do you have any other thoughts on grandparenting or advice for future grans?
SHERRY: Gamma advice from me would be:
1. Go to the ultrasound appointment and see your grandchild at the same time your children get to see their baby. There is no greater joy than in that moment.
2. Spend as much time with them as possible. Connect with them while they’re young and you’ll always have that bond. Make fun, loving memories for them to treasure long after you’re gone.
3. Tell every grandchild they are your favorite.
4. Pray with them and for them always.
DIARIES: This is such great advice! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about being a Gamma?
SHERRY: Oh yes, there’s one more thing. From the time Cooper and Emma Cole were born, every year around their birthdays I take a picture of my hand holding theirs. One day I plan to put these pictures in a special book for them.
DIARIES: That is such a precious idea. Thank you, Sherry, for sharing your experiences and spending time with The Granny Diaries. Your life is full and fun and inspirational!
SPOT ON GRANNY—A “GiGi” Who’s Turned Baking Into A Business
We are excited to feature Millie Kay Drum as our very first SPOT ON GRANNY and hear about her life as a grandmother…
THE GRANNY DIARIES: Welcome Millie Kay! Tell us a little about yourself—do you work? What do you spend your time doing? What are your hobbies?
MILLIE KAY DRUM: My husband Rob and I have been married for 32 years and have four grown children—three sons, and one daughter. I love my job teaching preschool at God’s House Kindergarten in Birmingham, AL. I’ve been teaching there nine years. I look forward to having my grandbabies there, too—our oldest granddaughter started this year. This summer, I started a “Paleo Friendly” baking business, Sunrise Baking Company, which grew out of my lifelong interest in fitness and nutrition, and my love for cooking and baking. I love spending time with family and helping with our three grandchildren as much as I can! I also love oil painting, and I take a weekly painting class. I’ve been working out at Orange Theory Fitness for the last few years, and really enjoy the challenge and friendships. Exercise is an important part of being a grandparent, too. I don’t think I could carry the babies around, up and down stairs, and lift the heavy car seats and strollers if I didn’t work out!
DIARIES: Do you have any special memories about your grandparents from childhood?
MILLIE KAY: I was close with all of my grandparents and have so many happy memories of them. My grandmothers were both wonderful cooks and did lots of baking. I think of them often as I bake. I’ve been rolling out pie dough with my grandmother’s rolling pin this week. One of my grandmothers made the best banana bread. I remember baking it with her. She had her measuring spoons and cups all organized and hanging on little hooks under the cabinet. (She wouldn’t be impressed to see how mine are organized!) My other grandmother made the best cornbread. It was the kind that has a crispy crust from pouring the batter into a sizzling hot skillet. She made it EVERY single day for my granddad.
All of my grandparents loved the Lord and had a strong faith that was very much a part of their lives. I am thankful for this example and teaching that they passed down to us. I especially remember my grandparents as they got older, sitting together everyday listening to Charles Stanley on the radio. I always thought, I want to have a marriage like that! I’m very thankful to say that Rob and I share a strong faith and enjoy being part of a wonderful church.
DIARIES: Tell us a little about your grandchildren. What is your “granny” name?
MILLIE KAY: Our oldest grandchild is our granddaughter, Everette. She’s two and has a younger brother (just 12 months younger!) named Hank. We also have a grandson, Wells, who is 10 months old. All four of our children live nearby, so we are thankful that all of our grands are close!
Only one of our grands can talk so far. She calls me “GiGi”.
DIARIES: What do you enjoy about being a grandparent? Any favorite moments or stories you’d like to share?
MILLIE KAY: I love seeing each new thing the babies learn, and how excited they are about simply watching the birds at our bird feeder, or the chipmunks—which my granddaughter called “meeka punks”—play outside the kitchen window. They are so excited to see the garbage truck or mail truck coming down the street. I love witnessing the excitement and wonder in their faces as they experience for the first time the little things we don’t always appreciate as we get older.
I also really love watching our children become parents! It’s very rewarding to observe how well they are doing, and seeing them with their children makes me so proud and happy. I love discovering the characteristics of our children and daughters-in-law in the grandbabies. It brings back special memories of our children when they were that age. It’s wonderful to share this new parenthood part of life with our adult children, and to be able to be a help to them.
Some of my favorite moments as a grandparent are waiting at the hospital, seeing them for the first time, rocking them before bed when they have their head on my shoulder and I can feel their baby breath on my neck…what could be sweeter? And I love that my granddaughter says, “Pap?” (her granddaddy) when she sees me, “cupcakes?”, “muffins?”, “park?”, and “people?” These are the things she associates with me: her granddaddy, baking, going to the park, and singing “Wheels on the Bus” which she calls “people”.
DIARIES: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for our readers who aren’t yet grandparents?
MILLIE KAY: I think being a grandparent is a huge blessing and responsibility! As a grandparent we have the opportunity to pour love and value and FUN into the little lives of our grands. We have the opportunity to help shape them, and to teach them about Jesus by the example we set. Little eyes notice everything we do! Thinking about these questions makes me more aware of the need to be intentional about time I spend with them.
As far as advice to future grandparents: start or continue working out and building some muscle—you’ll need the energy it gives you to be able to keep up with them!
DIARIES: Thank you Millie Kay for sharing your grandparenting experiences with us. Your words are full of wisdom, warmth, and inspiration.
Millie Kay Drum’s new Sunrise Baking Company offers grain, dairy, and refined sugar free (gluten friendly) baked goods packed with nutritious ingredients. They are available by email order and at Bloom Studio in Birmingham, AL. To learn more visit sunrisebakingcompany.com and follow on Instagram @sunrisebakingcompany and Facebook.
My Not-So-Perfect Beach Trip
It was the early 1990s and my husband and I were newly married. We were young and had a lot to learn. We’d secured college degrees and good jobs, but we also had a mortgage that financially stretched us as thin as tissue paper. Any unforeseen expense would’ve turned into unwelcome credit card debt, which we were trying hard to avoid. We had the funds to live, but not much more.
“Let’s go to the beach,” my husband said and I agreed. But a long weekend at the beach was expensive, and not in the budget.
I had an idea. My maternal grandmother had recently remarried after being widowed for many years. Greg was tall and chatty and an enormously successful businessman. He was kind and generous, and, he owned a beach house in Gulf Shores, AL. That was it, I thought! I’d ask if we could stay at their house on the gulf and our problem would be solved. We would have a few peaceful days away from the grind of life and work, and be free to relax on the beach without spending money we didn’t have. What a perfect plan.
As I knew she would, my grandmother agreed to my request and my husband and I headed toward our relaxing, romantic weekend away.
Gulf Shores lies to the east of Mobile Bay, and is an easy drive south from Interstate 10 near Fairhope. The parkway leads directly toward the gulf and dead ends at the beach. My step-grandfather’s house rested atop stilts, like most of the houses along the coast, and sat at the end of that parkway. It was old and had dark paneled walls and was perfectly wonderful. Condominiums rose on either side of the small house and left it sandwiched in between. It likely had survived many hurricanes and seen the area go from remote to commercial, and isolated to crowded over time.
We arrived at the house, excited to see the beach and smell the salt water. Pulling into the sandy driveway, we noticed another car parked nearby. Unsure what to think, we walked up the stairs and knocked on the door. And who do you think answered that door? If you guessed my grandmother, you would be correct. She and Greg had made the drive from Mobile, and were waiting to welcome us in.
“Maybe they wanted to get the house ready and make sure we got inside okay,” I whispered to my husband. We brought our luggage up the stairs and settled into the room of my grandmother’s choosing.
“But when are they leaving?” my husband asked. I shrugged my shoulders, my eyes large, the romantic weekend we had envisioned slowly slipping from view.
And so the weekend went by: Greg talked and talked and talked while my husband listened and listened and listened; and my grandmother proceeded to teach me how to freeze garbage, properly make a bed using TWO top sheets (like they do at the Ritz), and keep uninvited people off the property. She had a bullhorn, which gave her the voice and the power to warn anyone spreading a towel in front of her house, “You are on private property!” As unbelievable as this sounds, we witnessed it firsthand. I assure you that, aside from my husband and me, there were exactly zero people sunbathing on the beach in front of their house that weekend.
My grandmother was an elegant southern lady. She had the dreamiest blue eyes I’d ever seen. She cared about beauty, managing her home, and social connections. She was an artist who paid attention to detail. Her nails were always painted pink, her dinner table was always set with fine china and polished silver, and in my memory, her hair and makeup were always perfect. She ran her household like a business and she was an excellent domestic CEO.
I wish I had a little more of her in me, but in truth, I prefer faded jeans to cocktail dresses, unpolished nails to manicures, and a makeup-free face. But I loved her and admired her and appreciated the way she held herself to high standards. Much like my paternal grandmother, she was strong and a fighter and never gave up on the ideals that were important to her, and I will always hold her in high esteem for that.
As far as the romantic, peaceful weekend my husband and I had planned—it didn’t happen. But although the weekend turned out differently than we’d envisioned, we did have a lovely time. We got to know my grandmother and Greg like we hadn’t before, and that was an unexpected gift. We’ve had many beach trips over the years, but never, ever have we had one like this: one with unexpected conversation, unexpected instruction, and unexpected but beloved guests.
As the wise and well-loved Barbara Bush once said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” I’d like to add one more person to her list. A grandparent.
This Is The Kind Of Grandpa I Plan To Be
My name is John Alton Shelton III, and I want to tell you about my grandfather, John Alton Shelton, Sr. I’d like to refer to him as Papa, that’s how my brothers and I knew him, and it is my honor to tell you about this great man.
I could talk about his influence as a man of faith, and how actively he sought to bring Jesus to others through his words as a teacher and actions as a follower.
I could talk about his loyalty, and how he would open his home to anyone who needed a friend.
I could talk about his leadership, and his success within the education system of Alabama.
I could talk about his strength, which he proved growing up on a farm in north Alabama, as well as on the basketball court as both a player and coach; or his strength in fighting sickness like a warrior until he took his last breath.
But I prefer to talk about the man I knew as a grandfather to my two younger brothers and me. Papa greatly influenced my life. As a grandfather, he did three things for me that I would like to share.
The first thing Papa did was take me fishing. He brought my brothers and me to a pond or lake whenever we had a free weekend growing up. He taught us to bait a crappy hook with a cricket, and when that hook was empty, he would say we were fishing on credit. And at the end of the day, there was nothing better than frying fish with Papa. We helped him cook the fish we’d caught and he’d let us have a sample once it was fried. Papa spent time with us.
The second thing Papa did was show up to my games. If you’ve ever played in or watched little kids’ football games, you know how long and painful they can be. Papa showed up to all of our games, and he made us feel like all-stars. Papa was my biggest fan, Drake’s biggest fan, and Sullivan’s biggest fan. It didn’t matter if I’d played my best game or my worst; I got one of Papa’s big painful hugs at the end of the game. Papa showed up.
The third thing Papa did was to give me phone calls. I think he called me every weekend when I was young, and I’m grateful for those conversations. Papa would ask how my grades were going, and when I was going to “march” for graduation. If the call wasn’t about school, it was always about playing sports, my music, or how the job search was going. I am grateful that Papa was a big part of my life. Papa stayed in touch.
My Papa taught me to be strong, loyal, faithful, and loving. If I’m lucky enough to have grand kids one day, I’m going to make sure and take them fishing, show up to all their games, and call them every chance I get.
I love you Papa.
Jack Shelton received his MBA from the University of Alabama. He lives and works in Atlanta, GA.
The Day My Nana Made Me Cry
“What is your most embarrassing moment?”
I have a friend who loves this question. Every time we get together she begins the gathering by tossing this out to the group. And my reaction is always the same: eye roll, headshake, NO, NO, NO. For the love, why would anyone want to reveal personal humiliating information? Can’t we all agree to keep our secrets buried deep within where they belong?
But today is a new day, and I’m about to share one of my most embarrassing moments of all times. My friend will be proud, this one’s for her.
My moment has to do with my paternal grandmother, who, at this writing, is approaching her 102nd birthday. She’s a trooper, a strong-willed, scrappy, wisp of a woman who has lived through World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and over time, three weddings and three funerals of three husbands. She’s had quite a life.
After my grandfather (her first husband) passed away, my Nana determined to take care of herself by securing a job as a file clerk in a physician’s office. She is and has always been the most organized person I’ve ever known, so I’m sure she was perfect in this role. She probably had those files standing at attention every time she entered the room.
At that time, I was in elementary school, maybe around eight-years-old. One of my favorite things to do back then was to pretend I was injured. I would wrap my wrists, ankles, knees, head, whatever in small strips of old sheets that I used as pretend bandages. I always had a fake broken bone or two, and when my injury was particularly bad, I used long sticks from the yard as crutches on which to hobble around.
Christmas time arrived, and I remember my Nana brought two large presents to the house for me. I was ecstatic. I opened the first gift, and it was a shiny, silver pair of—you won’t believe it—crutches! This should have been the perfect present for a little girl who spent a fair amount of time pretending to be “broke up”, but when I saw the crutches, my Christmas gift, I was embarrassed. My mind began to race. Everybody would think I was weird to get crutches as a gift. I could never play with them; it would be too risky. I tried to smile through my discomfort as I peered at the second gift. It was a huge, beautifully wrapped, rectangular box. My heart sank. I dreaded what the box held. Surely not; surely it wouldn’t be what I feared. If she thought I wanted crutches, she would also think I wanted a wheelchair. I was horrified. I didn’t want a wheelchair; I wanted a normal gift. I wanted to be a normal little girl that received toys or clothes or jewelry for Christmas. As I stared at that enormous box, I began to cry. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I turned away. I couldn’t face it. They would all think I was odd, not right, a freak. And maybe, I thought, I was.
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My poor Nana looked at my tears and then at the crutches and attempted to explain. She told me she had found the old crutches in the back room of the building where she worked, and knowing I loved to play the patient, decided she would fix them up and give them to me for Christmas.
“This isn’t your real present,” she said. “It was just a silly idea I had.” I took a deep, shaky breath. “Don’t you want to open your real present now?” she asked, sliding the oversized box in my direction.
I did not.
But after much coaxing, I finally opened the box and found inside the prettiest sleeping bag I’d ever seen. Covered in 1970’s style flowers, it was the perfect combination of pink and yellow and orange, and suddenly, I felt like the coolest girl around. I had flower power. Now this was a normal present. Maybe she did think I was a normal little girl after all. I wiped away my tears and relaxed. Everything was going to be okay.
I loved that sleeping bag and used it until it grew threadbare, but the real hit that Christmas was the crutches. They had been the perfect gift for me: so thoughtful, so creative, and so much work for my Nana to take them apart and paint them and put them back together again. It took me some time to realize the love that had gone into the gift, since at first, all I’d felt was embarrassment. I couldn’t see past my own insecurity and pride to my Nana’s thoughtfulness and creativity.
In the end, she knew how much I enjoyed those crutches and how successful her gift had been. And even though I had not, she had known the perfect gift for me that year.
Now, every time I see a tiny pair of crutches, I think of my Nana and my tears and my perfect Christmas gift, and it makes me happy. Maybe one day I’ll have a granddaughter to whom I’ll give the perfect gift—a gift that brings a smile, a laugh, or a hug; but hopefully not a tear.