We always referred to it as Grandpa Walton's radio because it looked just like the one in the television series: dark brown and bulky, with two creaking knobs as big as a child's fist. My father kept it in the garage to listen to when doing carpentry work. Every once in a while I would try to convince him to allow me to move the radio into my room, but the radio was his special possession, and the garage his special territory, so the radio remained where it was.
Every Christmas Eve my father would bring the radio into the house. Sitting by the glow of the Christmas tree lights, we would all take turns turning the knobs, trying to pick up international stations playing carols in different languages. The sound was scratchy, but that just added to the magic. One year we even picked up Vatican Radio and listened to the Pope's Christmas message.
Then, early one December, my father had a heart attack.
What was normally a joyous season for us, now became frightening and unsure. As we sat in the waiting room and watched bustling nurses in Santa hats, we struggled to find hope. There was no infant Jesus lying in a manger, only my father in a hospital bed; there was no bright Christmas star, only the blinking, beeping monitors hooked up to my father; there were no Christmas parties or celebrations, only quiet prayers whispered again and again.
But hope's flower began to blossom, one petal at a time. My father came through surgery, woke up, grew stronger, and was finally released to come home one week before Christmas.
When we gathered together that Christmas Eve we ignored the presents piled under the tree in light of the beautful gift of my father sitting in his recliner. That year, we didn't just listen to Christmas carols, we sang them, every word coming straight from the heart.
And that night my father gave me, newly polished, dusted, repaired, and wrapped with a bright red ribbon . . . Grandpa Walton's radio.
*re-post from 2007