A ‘grandfather’ was wheeled into my grotto. Wheelchair bound, he was accompanied by about 10 others. There were different generations all gathered together, most making a big fuss of ‘granddad’.
Five seconds before they came in, my Elf gave me the briefing that I should focus my attention on the grandfather as he was dying.
Before I could say, “What?” or take in what I’d just been told, in they all came. As we all sat or stood there, different family members were hugging ‘granddad’ and posing for photos, both separately and collectively. I asked him who’d been naughty and who’d been nice, and we all had a laugh with the responses as he pretended to be taking his time deciding who should be on which ‘list’.
Some of those there were crying but trying to pretend they weren’t. All were trying to put on a brave face, and all were having fun. I felt completely out of my depth and like I was really struggling.
After a good laugh it was time for them all to go. Most left the grotto, but ‘granddad’ wheeled himself closer to me and grabbed my hand. “This has meant the world to me. It’s meant the world,” he said as he shook my hand. He then got wheeled out and I was left alone for a few seconds.
Then one of the family, possibly his daughter, popped back in and also thanked me.
She explained that ‘granddad’ wasn’t going to make it to Christmas. He was dying of cancer and had only a few days, so the family wouldn’t have this Christmas with him.
Instead, they had decided to bring him to see Santa in order to get a photographic memory of an early ‘Christmas’ together and to kind of say goodbye.
She thanked me for playing my part, and for making the whole experience fun. She said she’d never forget me for what I’d done.
In truth I’d not done anything special, just been a stunned but happy chatty Father Christmas.
Then she too was gone, leaving me alone in my grotto feeling most odd, completely emotionally exhausted, and quite upset and confused playing over in my mind all that had just happened.
My Elf came in and paused for a second. “You did really well. You ok?” she asked. “I’m not sure. I think so.” I stammered. “Ok, well next we have Ethan and he’s 4.”
And so the next and more usual type of visitor to Santa came in, and I had to switch back to my usual patter.