This week, one year ago, we were getting ready to make the big trip east with the kiddos for Christmas with my family. It was a crazy-busy time, but knowing we'd miss the family get-togethers here in North Dakota, I made special plans with my husband's Grandpa's Girlfriend (got that?), Lorraine, to have Christmas supper with Grandpa out at the farm.
We had completed our first full year of operating our farm on the Wilson farmstead that Grandpa's father purchased, here in rural Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1935.
They barely scratched a living out of the place in back in the "Dirty Thirties" and somehow recovered from going broke on two other farmsteads in the area. Great-Grandpa and his sons had marched their dairy cows across the countryside from a township away, and were eventually able to move a house onto the place.
|The Wilson Farmstead in the 1930's. The verse in the upper left was a favorite of Great-grandmother Susan Wilson's.|
Then in 1962, Grandpa, along with friends and family, tore the old house down and in the same spot, built the house that stands today.
There we were in late 2011, with another of the fifth generation of Wilson's on the farm having arrived in our young son. We had good reason to celebrate!
Our normally jovial Grandpa Wilson had just turned 91 in November, and he hadn't let age stand in his way before, but that week, he wasn't really in the Christmas spirit. Grandpa didn't want to decorate. He didn't want to really go anywhere and he wasn't feeling so well after battling a variety of illnesses over the recent months, but once Lorraine (or Grandma Bair, as we refer to her) and I had made supper plans things began to change.
When we arrived at the farm that night, we were all happily surprised to find that Grandma had convinced him to decorate the whole house up- every window was decked out- and there in the middle of the living room floor was a sight my girls still talk about- a three foot tall glowing Santa, surrounded by presents.
That night Lorraine and I really put out a spread, and I have to give her most of the credit, because we only brought the pork chops and stuffing. It was an old-fashioned Christmas dinner with all the fixings and a sight to behold.
Grandpa, Grandma Bair, Jeremy and I, and our three children gathered around the table.
We ate, we visited, Grandpa reminisced. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting brought to life.
After dinner we settled in around the living room and exchanged gifts. Grandpa and Grandma Bair were even good sports and donned the paper crowns that came in their "Christmas crackers", which are a family tradition my Aunt started years ago.
I forgot my camera, so we snapped these with one of our cell phones.
These are the last photos I have of our precious Grandpa Wilson.
Later that week, sitting in his chair by the door, with his boots and coat on, waiting for Lorraine to comb her hair so they could go to town, he quietly passed away.
Except for a short time in his early married life when he and Ruth (his late wife) lived in town, he had lived all 91 years on the farm. He hadn't spent a day in a nursing home, and was with the second great love of his life when he passed. I say it was a blessing we had his company as long as we did. It was a privilege to have spent many hours recording family history with him. He was a friend, a mentor, a wealth of knowledge, and hardly a day passes where I don't wish I could ask him just one more thing.
My question to you today- with all the busyness of this Christmas season, will you MAKE the time to reconnect with a loved one, or make a new friend, or simply find a way to bless someone? You will never, ever regret it, and it may just be one of the best memories you ever make. This, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.
God bless you this CHRISTmas,
In loving memory of W.C. "Bill" Wilson, November 1, 1920 - December 16, 2011.