How I Survive the Holidays, Thanks to my Grandmother

Katie Kohler shares their special bond.

On the big screen, the “most wonderful time of the year” has been rife with anxiety and conflict, whether it’s Bing Crosby trying to woo Rosemary Clooney or a young Macaulay Culkin booby-trapping his home to fend off burglars. Flight is the other option. Why not just skip the holidays and head someplace warm?

The latter is tempting. My husband and I are child-free. We’d be OK waking up to views of the beach. Back home, hosts are flustered and distracted, and guests have an eye on the clock because they have to make it to the next house.

In most cases, we’re simply exhausted from trying to do too much to make the holidays perfect. When they aren’t perfect, we fight: “I told you to pick up the wine … You never listen.”

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And that makes us want to run.

There’s a reason I don’t do either: my 93-year-old grandmother. For the past few years, I’ve invited her to stay at our house over the holiday. These days, Gram is all I want for Christmas, and I want to enjoy her for as long as possible.

Granted, it can take awhile for Gram to get into the holiday spirit. She often spends the first hour or so in a typhoon of tears as she recalls deceased family members and friends. Suffering is a favorite pastime for any Italian grandmother. To snap her out of her funk, I’ll offer to take her to lunch, even if she almost always demurs, saying she’s going to fast “until Christ is born.”

Gram’s mood typically changes with a shopping trip to King of Prussia. “I like how you let me do what I want,” she’s told me. “It’s like I’m home when I’m here.”

My husband accuses me of helicopter granddaughtering, since I’m always asking Gram if she needs anything. Last year, I asked her if there was something in particular she wanted for Christmas.

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She took my hand and said, “I have everything I need.”

Katie Kohler thanks our readers for their support this year.

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