Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I love my grandmother!

Ok this wasn't the heaviest column- but it was two days before Christmas!

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on December 23rd, 2006:

As I write this, I am watching "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," my favorite movie at holiday times. It was one of my grandfather's most-loved movies, one we frequently watched regardless of the time and season when I went to visit him and my grandmother.

I've probably seen the movie seven or eight times since he passed away, far too soon in the summer of 2000, but I still think of him every time Chevy Chase sends a Christmas tree flying through his neighbor's house or destroys the Chicago power supply with his light display.

Fifty years from now, when I'm watching that movie on channel 3,457, I will probably still think of him.

My grandmother probably doesn't quite share our enthusiasm for this holiday classic, but that's OK.

Today I will drive through the countryside of eastern North Carolina to Litchfield, S.C., to spend the Christmas holiday with her. It's always a toss-up whether I'd rather spend the break down here with my extended family or at home in Michigan, where we had a beautiful, white Christmas each of the last two times I was there on the big day.

There's definitely not going to be any snow at the beach this weekend, but being able to spend a significant chunk of time with my grandmother will make it worthwhile.

My grandmother is the most selfless person I know. She seems to worry about pretty much everyone except herself. She does everything from taking personal responsibility for loving and caring for senior citizens without family in the area, to driving the carpool for my young cousins.

Two-and-a-half years ago, she broke her hip and had to go around in a wheelchair for several months.

She never complained, never wavered from putting the interests of everyone else around her ahead of her own, and was back in perfect shape faster than anyone could have expected. I hope that quick recovery was a reward for someone who truly lives by the Golden Rule.

It's amazing to walk around the complex of condominiums where she lives in Greenville, S.C. Everyone she sees, across four generations, stops to say a friendly hello to "Mrs. Patton." I have never seen this kind of reaction to any other person in any other place my entire life. But then again, I've never seen anyone so kindhearted and caring as my grandmother, so I can't say I find it terribly surprising.

I'll always think of my grandmother when I think of UNC's championship run during the 2005 NCAA basketball tournament. We watched the first half of the Sweet 16 game against Villanova together while I was visiting for Easter. UNC didn't play very well. She went to bed. UNC came back and won.

Two days later, we watched the start of the Elite 8 game against Wisconsin. Again, UNC did not start off particularly well. I went to the airport to fly back to Raleigh and, while waiting for my flight, saw UNC get its act together to win.

When I got back I had a message on my cell phone. It was my grandmother informing me that clearly her watching our games was bad luck, because Carolina was playing well when she wasn't watching and badly when she was. So, she was not going to watch them anymore.

She held to her word the next weekend and took one for the team. We beat Michigan State and Illinois to win it all. Did the great success have any connection to my grandmother's selfless act? Maybe or maybe not, but I'm glad she was willing to make the sacrifice.

So today I will drive through Holly Springs, Buies Creek, Dunn, Clinton, Whiteville and Tabor City on the back roads to Litchfield, just south of Myrtle Beach. I am looking forward to seeing my uncle Pat, his fiancâ??©e Terri, my charming cousins Maggie, Annie and Walter, and their parents Garry and Margo, my brother Alec and my parents. We have a close-knit family and the glue that will hold it together with all of us in one house for a week will, as always, be my grandmother.

As all of you travel by road, plane, or just stay at home this weekend, I hope you will be surrounded by family members you love and hold in as high regard as I do my grandmother. We should all be so lucky to have close family members we can be so proud of. Happy Holidays, everybody!



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