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by Harriet May Savitz


    He was a giver. He loved to give gifts. He never expected anything in return. He gave gifts for birthdays and holidays, and he gave gifts when there was no reason to give them.

    He loved giving gifts to his children, his wife, and when his first grandchild, Ryan, came along, he could not control himself. His giving blossomed to another level.

    The first year he concentrated on stuffed animals. Every Sunday Ryan received a dog, a cat, a bear, an elephant. His room looked like a jungle of wild prey.

    “Dad, we have no room for any more,” my daughter cautioned at the end of six months. She wasn’t exaggerating. Stuffed animals took up more space in the house than the family who lived there.

    He just smiled and kept buying the stuffed animals. Eventually they were tacked up on the walls and stored in corners, until the house ran out of corners.

    But while he was bestowing gifts on Ryan, he didn’t forget the other members of his family. On Mother’s Day there were roses, and on Valentine’s Day there were cards for everyone — even three cards a piece, especially to those he knew wouldn’t receive them from anyone else. Birthdays were never ignored. And during December, from Chanukah through Christmas, no one was forgotten.

    And neither was Ryan. From stuffed animals Eph went on to miniature racing cars. Though Ryan was too young to appreciate them, he said he bought them for Ryan’s future. Eventually he gathered over one hundred. They were lined up on his bookcase, and he never ceased to remind us that some day Ryan would spend hours playing with them. Even if it was years from then, it didn’t matter. Gift-giving for the future was just as exciting.

    The banks belonged to the “some day” category. All kinds of cast-iron banks. As Ryan grew older, he discovered the banks and delighted in watching the pennies flip into the holes. He was also allowed to look at the baseball card collection which would belong to him and other grandchildren some day.

    But most treasured of all by Ryan, was the special drawer in the desk. That was apart from everything else. It held magic. Ryan ran to that drawer as soon as he arrived inside our living room. In that secret, special treasured place were lollipops, chewing gum, toys that nobody but Ryan could identify, and surprises. Surprises that Ryan didn’t tell anyone he wanted, but that Grandpop always knew.

    Our house grew quite full. Sometimes I would complain about it. “Enough Eph,” I’d say. “We can’t fit any more.” But he would just smile as if he knew something I didn’t. And he’d buy another gift.

    One thing you must know. They were not expensive things. But they were always what you would hope in your heart that somebody would give you. And it was the way he gave, delighting in watching the face of the recipient, never expecting anything back but their joy.

    He died in his sleep one night. The giving stopped. Or so we thought. Friends and relatives came to call, and each had a story about the giver, and we realized his circle was much larger than we dreamed. For he gave in so many ways. He gave to a girl who had problems expressing herself... he gave her a job and his time as he listened to her problems. He had a coupon network... people he sent coupons because he knew it would help their budget. He gave to all kinds of organizations, even when he didn’t have the money. And so we told each other stories about his giving.

The giving stopped. Or so we thought.
    My son recalled how he looked forward to the mail because there was always something there from “dad” — most of the time a box of lollipops and assorted candy. My son was over thirty, but that didn’t matter, because the giver knew a lot about staying young inside. We said how wonderful it was that he had lived to see his granddaughter born, and we tried to make ourselves feel better about our loss.

    But it was Ryan who felt it the most, in the way only a child can feel the pain of losing a loved one. Four years old now, he wanted to know about his Pop Pop and where he was and why he didn’t call on the telephone anymore and why his magic drawer in the desk was empty.

    We purchased the right books that explained death to a youngster, and we told Ryan that Pop Pop was up in the sky and there were no telephones up there, but he was looking down and was keeping an eye on us.

    And we filled the drawer with little treats. But we could see by Ryan’s expression that we did not know, as Pop Pop knew, exactly how to fill that drawer.

    Four weeks after the funeral, the mailman came to Ryan’s house. There was a package for him. Inside was a watch — the kind you send away for from a cereal boxtop. Obviously his Pop Pop had done so a few months ago. Ryan’s grandfather had often chosen his morning cereal by the gifts offered for children on the front of the box. We all shook our heads, feeling uneasy because now we didn’t know quite what to say to Ryan when he joyfully told us, “Pop Pop sent me a surprise.”

    The surprises for Ryan kept coming. The next week some water shooters were delivered in the mail. A couple weeks later, a plastic dinosaur. Ryan found his own answer. He decided there was a post office in the sky and Pop Pop was mailing his gifts from there.

    We didn’t know how many more surprises were out there floating in the mail, waiting to be delivered to Ryan. Gifts purchased many months before from a grandfather who lived in the future. Eventually we knew they would stop.

    Or would they? Perhaps the true gifts wouldn’t be for our eyes to see, but will be enclosed in our hearts and our memories.

© Copyright 2001, Harriet May Savitz Look for her new book, Messages from Somewhere: Inspiring Stories of Life After 60, where Harriet reveals the limitless possibilities at this stage of life, encouraging folks to continue making a difference in their world. This book looks at renewal within family life, friendships, grandparenting, reaching out to the community, relationships, self-discovery, and survival. You can check out this accomplished writer at her web site and look for her new books with Little Treasure Publications, Inc. or email SoulComfort@aol.com for details.
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