Grandpa’s Christmas atlas: Why bookshops and print books still matter

Last night (December 23rd) around 8pm, my grandma called me with a special Christmas request.

“Will you do me a favor, sissy? Will you buy Grandpa a new atlas and wrap it up and put it under the tree, from Grandma?”

Grandpa

Grandpa, mid-story, on 4th of July (hence the beads)

It seemed like a pretty random request. She’s never asked me to buy anything on her behalf, but I know that this is the first year she’s struggled to get out of the house. Pain from a few injuries and arthritis has kept her home more and more. Grandpa, too, has had a tough year. When I flew home a week ago, he looked much more frail than he had in July, when we celebrated his 90th birthday. Like the indestructible man he’s always seemed to be, he hasn’t let that stop him from working construction with my dad.

Feeling honored to have such a task – especially one where I could spend time flipping through map books – I quickly agreed and asked what kind of atlas she wanted to give him.

“It don’t matter. I just want it to be a new one. Every time you kids travel somewhere, he looks it up in his old atlas that he inherited from Grandpa Latham in the 70s. Now you’ve moved to Holland, he can’t find the town where your livin’ or the one where you’re workin’, and he’s flustrated.”

She told me, “You’re the only one I know who goes to bookshops. I don’t know nothin’ about them, so I wanted to ask you to do this for me.”

So last night my husband and I drove to the nearest bookstore and spent time looking at their atlases until we found one that had our new hometown in it as well as large-enough print that Grandpa could read it.

I started writing this post this morning, and I was going to make it about why brick-and-mortar bookshops and print books still matter: because with only one day until Christmas, I would’ve struggled to get an atlas delivered in time. And the one I would’ve chosen from the brief browse I had online before going shopping ended up not having the town where I work in it.

But this morning, as I paused in my writing to wrap gifts, we got a message. Grandma left it on dad’s cell phone early this morning, but he only noticed he had a message four hours later. Grandpa is sick, and Grandma had to rush him to the doctor at 6.45am.

We can’t get hold of her. We don’t know what “sick” means, and we’re clinging to hope because she said “doctor”, not “hospital”. My cousin Will lives with them, and he said everyone was fine when he left for work at 6, so whatever it was must have come on suddenly.

When we got the message, I was in the middle of wrapping the gift I’d bought Grandpa: a tin train full of candies, since he has a sweet tooth. The last present I had to wrap was the atlas.

Wrapping it up, and writing “To Grandpa, With love from Grandma” on the tag made my eyes swell up and my throat scratchy. My grandpa is one of Earth’s finest men, and I don’t need an atlas to tell me that.

So we wait to hear. In the meantime, Grandpa’s atlas is wrapped, sitting under the tree, with love from Grandma.

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9 Comments

Filed under Thoughtfulness

9 responses to “Grandpa’s Christmas atlas: Why bookshops and print books still matter

  1. Hope everything is OK! Very nice post about bookstores.

  2. Marijane Diodati

    I am so sorry to hear that your grandfather isn’t well. I wish that this purely was a very nice article about bookstores. Please know that your grandfather and your family is my prayers. If you have the chance, please keep us updated.
    Take care.
    Marijane

  3. Reina

    I hope your grandpa is okay. He and your family will be in my prayers. Take care and thanks for sharing this touching post. All best.
    And yes, shop indie bookstores. Having no bookstore in town runs a close second to having no library.

  4. What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. I hope he gets to read it soon. You and your family are in my thoughts, Kat. Keep us posted.

  5. Maria D.

    I hope your grandpa is okay, will keep your family in my thoughts.

  6. catslady

    I hope all is well with your grandfather and that he will be opening that present very soon!!

  7. Cat, I’m so sorry to hear your grandpa is ill. He sounds like a wonderful guy.You and your family will be in my thoughts today.

  8. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, everyone.

    Grandpa was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Eve and they’ve been running lots of tests ever since. No diagnosis yet, but he’s still there and still not well. Grandma said she and Grandpa ate their Christmas dinner holding hands last night.

    My husband and I are driving up there today to see both of them and do whatever we can.

    Wishing many blessings to you and your loved ones this season.

    xx Kat

  9. Pingback: Bittersweet week « Here We Go

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