I Wish I Could Still Get My Grandfather Books For Christmas

Matthew Donnellon

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Some stories are books.

And some books are stories.

And sometimes they’re gifts.

A book is a special kind of gift.

It’s not something that is just some mere tchotchke to collect dust on the shelf.

A book is different unless this is happening to the books you give people. Then I suspect you should find better books or better people.

A book is a commitment. It says “I think you’ll spend a few hours enjoying this.”

For a voracious reader there is no better gift. Especially when you nail it and they read the book over and over. You’ve given them days of joy.

A book says something about the giver too.

It says that I spent a while looking for this. I sojourned among the shelves and pranced along the pages, and read and read and read some more until I found something you might like.

It says’ here I was in the bookstore reading the spines until it was dark. I walked up and down rows of books. For a bookworm there is no better search. Each time you go into the bookstore it’s like you’re Indiana Jones, and you never no what treasures you might find.

And books can be a tradition.

At least it was for me.

Every year, I would spend at least some part of December looking for a book.

A special book.

Each year, for several years in a row, I would give my grandfather a book for Christmas.

You see books were kind of our thing. Actually, it was something I have in common with both grandfathers. Both of them would give me bags of books much to my mother’s dismay.

I still have them all. Every single one. Enough to fill a small library. Probably two small libraries. They reside on shelves. In trunks. In piles on my desk, and on tables. They are locked away in storage. But I still have them all.

My grandpa, books, and I go way back.

Each time I visited him, he’d read me a story. Each time I picked the same one. Danny and the Dinosaur. I don’t know how many times I made that man read that book. The book fell apart, he read it so often. The binding was unable to handle the enthusiasm of a small child.

He would also give my first Michael Crichton books. And oh the good times I had with those. This would lead to learning about Michael Crichton, and at some point while reading about him writing his first books, and I decided I’d become a writer too. It would eventually be my chosen career, the reason you’re reading this story now.

And so began my quest each year to find a new book for my grandfather. That would be his Christmas gift.

He read a lot too. Mostly thrillers and books about military history, as grandfathers tend to do.

I would usually go for the military history ones and the search was always fun. He had a particular affinity for airplanes, and spent time as an Airman in the Air Force.

As a very small child he’d take me to visit his mother, my great-grandmother, a small kind woman who always had gum drops on the table. She lived near a small airfield and at some point we’d venture out to watch the planes come and go.

So, I typically found books about airplanes and pilots. Usually from the World War II era.

The hunt was always a special event to me. I knew bookstores in and out. In fact, it’s hard for me to find someone to go with as I spend far too much time there.

I would, of course, give a quick scan over the whole place, less I miss something I’d think he’d like among the new books. And then I’d look through the rows of fiction. He liked adventures and thrillers too. But I wanted something with staying power, not just something you read in an afternoon or two.

So there were always two go to spots. First, I’d check the sports. In addition to the military books he had several tomes about Michigan Football, the Detroit Tiger, and the Red Wings. I was always reluctant to go with sports though, since it was a small section there was a chance he’d already have it.

So I’d spend the afternoon reading through dozens of airplane and war books until the right one would show itself. One year, I couldn’t narrow to a single book so I had to get three. He was excited that year.

It was funny. I’d have all these books and the right one would emerge no matter what. There were even a few off the wall picks.

One year we got him a book on origami as he’d recently become infatuated with the Japanese art of folding paper. That year the kitchen table was adorned with Christmas trees made from neatly folded napkins.

Each year, another book.

I have those books now.

Since my grandfather is no longer with us.

In fact, while I wrote this the last book he gave was next to me.

Two Christmases ago was the last time I saw him. He had another book for me. He hadn’t even had a chance to read it yet, he was behind on books. He told me to take it, and to give it back when I finished. I told him to wait. I’d get it the next time I saw him.

He passed away a few weeks later. My grandma gave me the book as well as his other ones. Boxes of books joined all the other ones he’d given me over the years.

So now I have a new tradition.

Each year I pick one of the books from the stack and I’ll read that one. Books about airplanes and soldiers from another era. Sometimes, I’ll even get the origami book out. Maybe fold a few Christmas trees.

He might be here anymore, but I’ll always have the books.

The Christmas books.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI
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