Of Grace, Gifts, and Gratitude


Christmas was wonderful. 

All the kids and all the grandkids except Caitlin, who could not get away from work and studies to travel to Texas, were here. 

We had an early holiday with the Welches, who needed to be back in Kansas for the actual day, and then the two Austin families came out for Christmas dinner.

Three Sons-in-Law and One Hopeful


Four Daughters

I could tell you all about each of them, but I won't.  If you care, ask me. 

Suffice it to say they are all incredibly handsome, beautiful, intelligent, witty, erudite, and accomplished.

Plus they're good people, which is way more important than all the above anyway.  Needless to say, having them gathered around the table puts every other endeavor we have undertaken into perspective. 

Five Sixths of the Grandkids


The gift-giving season poses a few challenges, now that money is not so much a factor as it was for a very long time, for us when the Ranch was young and for the kids when the grandkids were young.  Now if we want something, we pretty much have the means to acquire it. 

Me in Great Wooly Coat

 Still, though, we struggled through!  The girls and I went shopping on South Congress in Austin, and I fell in love with a humongous wool greatcoat I found in the St. Vinnie's thrift shop.  It weighs eight pounds.  It was last in style either in the 80s or 40s, judging from the shoulder pads.  In it, I  imagine I resemble Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

One of the daughters clearly thought that I was out of my mind and the granddaughters generally agreed.  But I had to have it.

Daughter #2, Martha, sprang for it.

I have no explanation other than to say that to see it hanging there in my closet delights me.

Allied Forces in South Pacific WW II

Jerry gave me Unbroken, the new book by Laura Hillenbrand about Louis Zamperini's WWII experiences and life story.  For hours of each day this past week I have been living through hell with Louie, who spent 47 days adrift in a rubber raft with two fellow airmen in the South Pacific, only to be captured by the Japanese and held for two and a half years as POWs under barely survivable circumstances.

My dad was in the Navy in the South Pac during the war, as was Jerry's brother Herbie.  My Uncle Charles flew as a tail gunner in Europe.  Each crew member had 30 mission to fly.  Half of them made it.  Uncle Charles was sent from Europe, where he had completed his missions, to Indo-China, to fly the hump, where he flew 30 more.


We so took them for granted growing up, these men who were ripped out of their lives and sent off to do unimaginable things against unimaginable odds.  It broke a lot of them, as it continues to do today.  Our neighbor when I was a kid spent hours walking in circles every day in his front yard, as his wife struggled to bring up their son and care for her husband, who–we were told–was “shell-shocked.”

To us kids he was just a harmless oddity, part of the landscape. 

Oh, God. 

I now know that he was a walking, living, tragedy.  Once he must have been young, handsome, in love, hopeful.  I have no idea what happened to turn him into what he became. 

Wow.  This piece has taken a turn I didn't expect.  All I can think of now are those men–and women– still laying their lives and their loves, their peace of mind, their hopes and dreams aside to serve our country in places near and far away.

Let's all make a resolution right here and now.  Let's make sure they get everything they need to put their lives back together when they come home, if they come home.

If Christmas in America teaches me anything at all, it's that we have plenty disposable income to see that those who go off to war on our behalf get everything they need to become whole again.

Let's all give one more gift before the year is over.  The Wounded Warrior is one worthy group, but you may know others.   Send gifts to:


Family pictures by Jerry Horton
Me in Great Wooly Coat by Phil Haas
Allied Forces picture courtesy Google Images