For Rebecca, 12, and Faith, 11, this is the first holiday season without their grandfather.
The girls have lived with him and their grandmother, whom they call "Popo" and "Momo" or simply "Dad" and "Mom," since they were babies. But he died of cancer this spring.
Over the years, the couple took in and raised many children, including Rebecca and Faith’s mother years ago.
“It’s like a cycle,” Momo said. “I adopted their mom, but now I have custody and I’m going to adopt them, God willing. They’re my girls.”
In their living room, Popo is honored in an ofrenda that Momo put up for Día de los Muertos. After the holiday, Rebecca and Faith asked to leave the display up.
His loss was emotionally devastating, and the family is still grieving. But now the family is also struggling financially. Momo is disabled and cannot work, with pain that sometimes forces her to rely on a wheelchair.
For Thanksgiving, they were able to take home a free turkey, but for Christmas, presents do not fit easily into the budget.
Faith enjoys drawing and painting. Rebecca loves painting her nails and doing her hair.
But when it comes to what they want for the holiday, both girls have settled instead on practical items — clothes and shoes for school. Faith also hopes for a laptop to do homework on, but she knows that the family can’t afford one.
For fun, the family goes on car rides down Ocean Drive. Sometimes they visit the beach. Together, the two girls enjoy creative projects and science experiments, like making homemade lipsticks.
“I don’t have money, so we try to do little picnics and I coupon, so whenever we can have something cheap, we do,” their grandma said. “But they’re appreciative of whatever they get, and they get excited with any little thing. Sometimes it’s hard for me to provide, but they’re very appreciative.”
Her other grandchildren sometimes stay with her, as well, including one grandson who comes every other month. He’ll be graduating this year with both an associate degree and a high school diploma.
She is incredibly proud of him, as well as of the girls, who she says have big hearts.
“I just want them to have a better future,” she said. “I would want them to break the pattern and to be successful and do something and make something of themselves. Each of them has potential in their own different ways.”
The children represent thousands who will be helped by the Caller-Times Children's Christmas Appeal. The names of the families profiled have been changed to protect their privacy.
Since 1973, the Caller-Times has reported the struggle of needy children and their families during the holiday season. All the money donated to the Christmas Appeal campaign benefits the children; all overhead costs are borne by the Caller-Times, United Way of the Coastal Bend, and participating agencies.
Participating agencies include Boys & Girls Club of Alice, Duval County Christmas Committee, the Kleberg County Welfare Department, Nueces County Department of Social Services, the Odyssey After School Enrichment Program in Rockport, Sinton for Youth Inc. and the Purple Door.
HOW TO DONATE
Here are three ways to help:
*Fill out the donation form on Page 2A. Make your check or money order payable to Children’s Christmas Appeal and mail to: United Way of Coastal Bend, 4659 Everhart Road, Corpus Christi, TX, 78411 (designate funds to Children's Christmas Appeal)
*Donate online at www.uwcb.org. Look for the Christmas Appeal logo.
*Text ChristmasAppeal (no spaces) to 41444 to make a donation.
This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Family faces grief, hardship after losing grandfather to cancer