December 12, 2007

Two Bakers Baking

The other morning at work I had a conversation with a woman whom I barely know. She replaced my friend in a position which occasionally crosses my path in my official duties in our building. When my friend left the job, she didn’t leave my life; in fact we’re still in touch often. Yet, when I see the "new woman", I sense the loss which is associated with missing my colleague.

This new woman was making coffee in the cafeteria when I stepped up behind her to wait for my turn to get my own cup of brew. She turned around and said hello, and I realized that I was whistling along with the Christmas carols playing on the overhead speakers.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?” she asked me with a smile. I must have turned red myself, but she saved me the embarrassment by quickly adding “I love Christmas too.” We talked for a few moments and she told me that her husband becomes miserable after Thanksgiving because his mother passed away around Christmas time a few years back. I listened to her and added that I can understand where he’s coming from because I lost some relatives around the winter holidays as well.

But, life does go on, right?” I said, trying not to sound too cliché.
That’s right; my mother in law wouldn’t want her son to be miserable, especially for our children’s sake.”

That was poignant, what she said. I kind of stared for a moment and thought about Kismet. We paid for our coffees, and I was careful not to offer to pay for hers as I'm inclined to do for co-workers of mine because she was the new kid filling in my friend’s position and she was still kind of on “probation” in my book. Maybe I’d have to phone up my pal and ask if it was alright to fraternize with the new gal, I thought.

However, it is moments like the one I just had with my new work associate, our brief chat about having a happy holiday, that highlighted another conversation I had with my twelve year old daughter only a few nights earlier. My mother died in August of 2006, and while we weathered the holiday season last year with great difficulty, I began to have doubts if I could keep my smile affixed to my face again this time around. My son has been crying a lot because he misses his grandma, and my daughter has been feeling a bit down herself.

The night when I spoke with my little girl we were opening Christmas cards we received in the mail. We talked about her grandmother and how my daughter doesn’t think its fair that she’s not with us anymore. There’s not much to say to a kid who’s crying about a lost loved one. I stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.

Hey, why don’t we bake some of Grandma’s famous pumpkin bread together this weekend?” I asked her. She lifted her head and looked at me. “But you made some for Thanksgiving, Daddy.”

I know, but there’s no reason why we can’t have more. Grand pa would probably want some.

But, won’t that make him sad?” I paused, and thought about what she said. “Yeah, I think it might. Grandpa misses Grandma so much. But, he would be so proud of you if you baked him a loaf of her pumpkin bread. He would really love that.”

So, it was agreed. We have a date to bake pumpkin bread together for Christmas Eve. All of this came about while opening Christmas cards and thinking of Grandma. It didn’t occur to me that any of this had to do with the idea of being happy during the holidays until I talked for the first time to the woman who replaced my friend in her position where I work. And, I couldn’t make my daughter feel happy either until I explained that the best way to cheer up Grandpa was to give him something he loved and missed; and that was Grandma’s baking.

It would be difficult, but I would do my best to make this a memorable Christmas holiday for my wife and kids as it is only right to do so. My mother wouldn’t want me to be depressed because she wasn’t here anymore, and she would want her grandchildren to have fun time when Santa Claus came to town.

This is going to be the best Christmas ever” I told my daughter. She listened with the biggest smile on her face as she took an envelope from the stack of mail. I watched her read another Christmas card; and, it was from my friend I knew from work. I hope she likes pumpkin bread.

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AntiBarbie said...

That is such a touching story. My Dad died a couple days after my birthday and the day before his own. It took awhile to be able to reclaim that time of year and make new happy memories.

I think what you are doing with the pumpkin bread (yum!) is a great way to help keep Grandma a part of the festivities this season.

All the best to you and your family. :)

- the AntiBarbie aka Dawnie

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Dawnie (AKA The AntiBarbie),
I'm sorry to hear about your father. It's tough to celebrate anything like a birthday when you have nothing but bad memories. I'm glad that you are able to finally have happiness back in your life on your birthday. You know, as soon as I wrote this piece and published it yesterday, I had another experience with my dad at his home going through my mother's things. It might turn into a blog post. But, it will have to wait a while as I vowed to remain cheerful throughout the holidays. I wish you and your family happiness and good health. As always, thanks for stopping by. -Mike.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike
I like the story. Very touching. It's a testament to how well written it is. I really don't know how to respond to this other than the fact that I felt proud for how you responded to your daughter. I don't know if I making myself understood. Well, good show Sir. You're a good father. :-)

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi JD,
Thank you so much. I appreciate the fact that you think I'm a good father. I understand what you are saying, and I'm humbled. Thanks JD. -Mike.

Kristyn said...

That's great, Mike! I don't have kids and though I still have both of my parents, I hardly see them, which makes the holidays hard for me. They live in CA and I in TX, which is quite a distance to traverse. We see one another once a year, and it's getting harder every year to make it. Life is certainly getting in the way. This year, I won't see them for Christmas at all and though I have my husband, it's just not the same with out my folks and sisters. To make matters worse, we're expected to appear for the day at my inlaws, whom we do not get along with, rendering Christmas even further from pleasant.

I hope you and your family has a wonderful Christmas, Mike! It's a great season, I hope to get back to enjoying it someday. :D

Very best,

PS. I love Pumpkin bread! :P

Writing Nag said...

Thanks Mr. Grudge,
Beautiful many people struggle with the loss of family at the holidays. Maybe this will become a new holiday tradition.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kristyn,
I appreciate you sharing your uneasiness around your in laws. My brother is having a hard time with his future mother in law. All I can say is, go there in Christmas, then you and your husband have your own special holiday another day. As far as not seeing your parents in concerned, I hope you can travel out there soon and see them. Either way, I wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New year from the Grudge family! I hope you're feeling better too. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Writing Nag,
Thank you so much for your compliments. I hope this does become a family tradition too. This will be fun for my daughter and, I and I look forward to the special time with my young girl who is turning into a teenager, who will soon be (gulp) a young woman. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Happy Holidays. -Mike.

Jack Payne said...

With another year about to go down the tubes--sucked into oblivion by the calendar--it's nice to read an uplifting piece like this, Mike.

May the new year bestow upon you--and yours--the blessings of fame, fortune, happiness, and all the good stuff of life that your successful movie will inevitably produce. Something that, next year this time, you can cap off with celebratory champagne and another generous slice of pumpkin bread.

1st Lady said...

I've been thinking a lot about family recently and infact just today sent my Grandparents in Scotland flowers from my children.. and so the card read 'to our Great Grandparents'. I'm blessed still to have a few generations ahead of me and as I get older realise just how important family is. My nana (great grandmother) died at the age of 98 just 2 years ago and every time I play the piano I think of her, just like you remember your mother while baking. Those that have left us are still very much with us, aren't they.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Jack,
I'm glad you found this piece uplifting. As far as my movie is concerned, i expect I won't hear anything new about it until after the new year. This is a small budget short film which will be made for next to nothing and expects to make nothing. But, this is a project will be helpful to a young filmmaker's career. Still, we'll be popping champagne corks when it is wrapped up for sure. I appreciate your comments and wishes for good luck. Happy Holidays. -Mike.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi 1st Lady,
Thank you for sharing about your grandparents (your children's great-grandparents!) My daughter was about one year old when my grandmother died at ninety five, and it looks like we both have longevity in our families. How lovely that you think of your nana when you play the piano. I agree with your statement that those who left us are still very much with us. Tahnk you so much for stopping by and sharing your story. Happy Holidays. -Mike.

josey said...

i do so enjoy when a writer can share a story that is so personal in his life, and can present it transparently while taking the significance of the situation to his own heart. we hear so many life lessons this time of year, but this one in particular drives me because you have established something for your daughter that she will cherish (and learn from) as an adult. to me, this is selfless and priceless!

carrying on a tradition of a passed loved one is one of the most respectful, joyful ways to remember that person. i think its very hard to do what you're doing, mike, knowing the pumpkin bread may bring a twinge of sadness to your dad (but also a pride about his brave granddaughter), and also putting aside your own hurt for the sake of showing your daughter how to be real and compassionate.

your dad will be proud of you, too. i'm sure his eyes will light up when she gives him what she's made with loving memories!

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Josey,
I am not ashamed to admit that I became a bit misty eyed reading your comment. My dad is very sick right now, and making this for him has gained new importance. Thank you for being such a good blogging friend and thank you for your keen insights. -Mike.

Spirit said...

That's wonderful. Even if you didn't know it at the time I think you make the right choice with the baking and handling the whole situation all together. Holidays can be depressing much of the time, mostly because we make some of our most cherished memories during them with those we love and those we love can't always be around for the next one. It must have been tough having a friend of yours kind of replaced at work, dealing with your grief, and helping your family through theirs. You've done better than most have. It takes a strong and good heart to do that.
Here's wishing you a merry Christmas and a blessed Yule as well as any other holidays you might celebrate. May you and yours know only happiness and love during this season and make some more happy memories to share with the dearly departed in their prayers.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Spirit,
I appreciate your kind and generous comment. I used the baking as a way to draw my daughter away from her grief and concentrate on something good which my mother would have enjoyed. My mother was a wonderful cook, and her pumpkin bread, though celebrated for it's taste and simplicity, was just a small example of what she was capable of. The world lost a talented and wonderful artist who painted, sketched, made arts and crafts, and who cooked. She is missed by many, and your comments here on this post helped build a tribute to her life. Thank you. -Mike.

Peter said...

Hi!I can certainly relate to this one. Sorry for the loss. My father-in-law recently passed away at the age of 89. He had been living with us for 14 years after finding himself without a home.

John was best described as independant, boyish in character, stubborn at times but fun to be with and extremely popular not only with people of his own age but with the younger generation that came to visit our home.

We have three sons and he enjoyed having them and their friends around. He shared their enthusiasm for life. It also reminded him of his youth and better times.

He watched them grow into adults as he did with his own 9 children. He was a great man.

We would listen to his old war stories for hours on end. As did our children. He was a friend and a wonderful teacher to all of us.

This will be the first Christmas without him. My wife obviously depressed over the loss will not handle this occasion at all very well. I pray that she will be OK.

Although most of us fear death, John looked forward to a time when he could rejoin family and old friends from the past. He knew and accepted that his time here on earth was nearly up.

We were indeed lucky and privilaged to have had him around. He will be missed.

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Peter,
I am sorry about the loss of your father in law, John. I must say, it was a wonderful thing to have him move in with you for fourteen years. Many folks I've met through the years did not have such cozy relationships with their in laws, and it seems like you had tremendous respect for him. This Christmas is going to be difficult without him, I am sure; but, if you take some time to share some memories of him together as a family, that may help to ease the pain. We did that last year for my mother as it was the first Christmas without her in 2006 and it helped us a lot. You'll never stop missing him in your life, but it seems to me that you are better off for having had him in your home and as a part of your family. It was dignified and brave of John to see death as a reunion with his loved ones and family. My father looks forward to the day when he can see his wife again.
One of the bittersweet things I experience with this blog is meeting nice folks such as you who visit here and read my posts and are kind enough to comment; but, then reading the stories the readers leave for me which are many times very sad. I welcome your story, and I am thankful to you for telling it here. Your father in law sounds like he was a wonderful man. If my story about my mom inspired you to write this tribute to him, than I am grateful for you for sharing. This was a touching comment, and I wish you and your loved ones and friends a very Merry Christmas. -Mike.

Peter said...

Hi! I'm touched and overwhelmed by your kind words of understanding and support. Thank you and all the best - Peter.

Mr. Grudge said...

You're welcome, Peter. Merry Christmas. -Mike.

footiam said...

In my part of the world, some people remember the departed by prayers and offering food, which actually ends up finally in our stomachs. A more lavish offering will be held at least once a year and at home, we had altars with a tablet bearing the name of the departed and prayers can be performed daily if one so wishes. I do think the departed has departed. The memories keep them alive and should bring joy rather than tears. Count our blessings that we have been together once. The sheer thought of the one we love and care about makes us feel alive. Why should we be dead when the departed depart? I think we ought to let go certain things and retain other things.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Footiam,
Thanks for sharing the customs for your part of the world. I enjoy the interaction I have with folks such as you who live in lands I have not visited. You have the ability to impart information with a decriptive narration, and it helps others to learn. Thanks you for reading my post, and Happy Holidays! -Mike.