Russell D. Hoffman visits his Grandmother, Christmas 1995

My last visit to my Grandmother, Christmas, 1995

The last time I saw my grandmother before she died was Christmas Day, 1995. She had been in a nursing home for about five years, in a small town on the Delaware shore. I hated visiting the nursing home. I hate nursing homes. I hate hospitals. I hate old age. I hate dieing. Grandmommy died a few months after this story takes place.

My wife and my brother's daughter (my 8 year old niece) and I had all gone over to the nursing home, and as we parked, another carload of visitors also parked a little way away, and we were all getting out of the cars at the same time. We had parked a bit closer to the door of the nursing home.

There were also three of them, a big old black lady and two old black men, one much older than the other. As the three of us got out of our car, I figured to try to catch these other folk's eye so I could say "Merry Christmas" which was certainly the civil thing to do.

It took a while. I would look over, and see them looking away, but finally I managed to catch one's eye (by looking away and looking back real quick) and then I yelled over a holiday greeting, which was answered accordingly.

We each started towards the door of the nursing home, and I had gotten our group on the move so that we would actually get to the door just before the other group. Holding myself back a bit, my niece went first (she's very outgoing and tends to lead the way anyway).

As she got to the door, I told her "hold the door for these folks" and she and my wife each grabbed a door and held it open as we let these old black folks past.

Well! The older gentleman, when he passed me, gave me just about the warmest handshake I've ever received, looked my straight in the eye and said "Merry Chistmas! May you have many more in good health!"

"Merry Christmas to you too, sir" said I smiling, and in we all went.

If it hadn't been Christmas, I'd have done it the same. The greatest sin of racism is to pass it on to the next generation.

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