The Norman Transcript

December 22, 2013

The stuffed snowman’s smile

By Kim Villalva
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Several years ago, I volunteered with an organization that made regular calls to seniors. My special friend to call was Don. He had health issues, lived alone and had no family.

Every day, I would call him, and our calls eventually became hourlong chats. I took him to dinner whenever I could and thought of him as my “Texas Grandpa.”

Christmas was coming, and I hated the idea of him being alone, but he reassured me that it had been that way for some time. I was heading out of town, so I couldn’t spend Christmas with him. Since I hadn’t known him long, I struggled to find his gifts.

I finally decided on a few simple and practical things. I just kept wishing I could be with him on Christmas to share a smile, a warm family dinner and some laughter.

At the last minute, I bought a stuffed snowman and hoped Don wouldn’t think it was goofy. After all, he was a 67-year-old man who lived alone with his cats and his books. There wasn’t one feminine or decorative item in his home, let alone anything “childish” like a stuffed toy.

When I dropped off his gifts, he asked if he could wait until Christmas Day to open them. I had really hoped he would open them while I was there, but when I remember his wrinkled smile and how his eyes joined in, I said, “OK.” I don’t know when he had even last received a Christmas gift as his wife had been gone for more than 15 years.

I called him on Christmas Day and he told me how much he loved his gifts. He absolutely loved the snowman. I remember how he chuckled on the phone when he talked about it.

Sadly, that was the only Christmas that I was able to share with my friend, Don. Ten months later, he passed away, leaving a huge void in my life. When we cleaned out his house, I found that Christmas snowman still enjoying a spot on his mantle. He was a bit dusty but wore the same cheery smile, which had prompted me to get him for Don in the first place.

Any time I see a stuffed snowman, I think of my one and only Christmas with Don. I think about how that little fellow I threw in my cart at the last minute had found a permanent spot in Don’s home.

I hope that he was able to put a smile on my friend’s face every day that he passed his mantle. I hope my friend knew that behind that silly snowman’s smile was the love of a friend who will never forget him.

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