by Greg Larson
It was the waning hours of Christmas Day in the early ‘90’s. My brother, Tim, and I were in a state of semi-sleep, on the living room floor listening to the ten o’clock news. We’d had a long day, from the kids getting up early in the morning, from opening packages…too much TV football, too much turkey, ham, and pecan pie. The day’s activities had worn us out.
The KAKE-TV news was broadcasting into the living rooms throughout the Wichita viewing area, filling the Christmas news void. You know the kind of news on Christmas day: feel good stories, Christmas soup kitchens, and regurgitated stories from throughout the year, packaged as “the best of.” It was not your action-packed newsworthy type of day.
A segment titled “Hatteberg’s People” was on the air. Larry Hatteberg, KAKE’s star reporter, routinely interviewed people around Kansas. He had a knack for connecting the viewer with ordinary people and their circumstances, and one could learn some regional and Kansas history as a side benefit.
We stared at the ceiling and listened to the TV as if it were a radio broadcast. Mr. Hatteberg was interviewing people, asking them to reminisce about celebrating Christmas during their childhood.
All of a sudden, the voice of our deceased Grandma Beck filled the room.
“When I was a small child, my family was poor. Our usual Christmas presents were some fruits and nuts that my parents gave us. We had no Christmas tree, so we decorated a chair and put our little presents underneath it.”
Tim continued to stare at the ceiling. “TAKE ME, JESUS!” he declared. Evidently, he thought the rapture had begun.
We looked at each other and then looked at the television. There was Grandma Beck, smiling at us from the nursing home lounge. Tim and I were speechless.
Grandma continued, “One Christmas, Santa brought me a little rag doll, and it was my happiest Christmas ever. I had a little girl to take care of, and it was so special. I sat close to the stove in our farm house, and hugged and hugged my doll.”
It seemed like her ghost had come to visit us in the living room.
The stories were rebroadcasts of tapes from years past. Grandma’s nursing home was located only three blocks from the KAKE-TV studios. Our conclusion was that Mr. Hatteberg had found the nursing home as a convenient place to interview people, at a time when our grandmother had been lucid and smiling.
I like to remember the Christmas present Grandma Beck gave us that year on Christmas Day . . . years after her time on earth. It brings a smile to my face, and the tears well up in my eyes.