Teachers feel the need to ask interesting questions on the first day of class to get to know their students. Usually questions that aren't very original. This year the most common was, "What is the best you've ever given?" I tend to choose gifts for people that remind me of them, which actually rarely equates to a good gift. My answers in class sucked.
I remember now, though, that what I gave my grandma this year was pretty cool. Her husband, my biological grandpa, died over 50 years ago when my dad was about five years old. He was a POW in Germany during WWII, and he has a pretty cool story.
Grandpa Aaron Mickelson
However, since his return from the service his pictures and documents have been sitting in Grandma's office gathering dust. She's asked me various times to make a scrapbook for him, and I always cringe at the thought of having to be creative and craftsy, telling her that a different cousin would be better at it. No different cousin has ever taken on the task.
This Christmas my gift to Grandma was to assemble a history of his life. I tell her it's a scrapbook, but the truth is that I don't have skills to "scrap".
I started digging through the giant "Aaron pile" and uncovered more than just history. Tears came to my eyes when I found the notebook he sewed out of cigarette wrappers during his time in the prison camp. The pages are filled with lists of foods he missed, written because he was on the brink of starvation. Grandma laughed and cried when I found the album full of pictures he had taken of her while they were dating. I couldn't wait to show my dad when I found Aaron's Honorable Discharge papers. Newspaper articles about him filled in holes in the story.
This man dropped bombs on Nazi bases, parachuted out of a burning plane, marched countless miles across Germany, nearly starved, came back to his family and started a new life for himself, and his blood flows in my veins. As I put telegrams in sheet protectors and type out stories, I'm finally understanding heritage.