The rock and the general — those are the words I use to describe my paternal grandparents. Herbert and Claire Mercier, married for 63 years, created a life on Cooke street in Edgartown. Nine kids and 40-plus grandkids and great-grandkids later they still reside in that home full of memories.

In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend more time with them, slowly building a bank full of unforgettable memories and stories from the past. But it wasn’t until last year when I realized just how precious my time with them was.

I’ve dealt with death in my family before, but it’s a fact of life that I like to overlook when it comes to my grandparents. I selfishly can’t picture a world where my grandfather isn’t sitting in his chair watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. Or where my grandmother isn’t bustling around, fussing with her dogs.

But life can’t be as perfect as I want it to be.

It was Christmas of 2013, and per Mercier family tradition we packed into that tiny home on Cooke street for Christmas dinner. But grandfather wasn’t among our ranks. He was in his bed, too sick to join us.

I remember leaving that day and thinking to myself that this would be my last Christmas with him. In early January I began my full-time job at the Vineyard Gazette and was excited to start up my daily ritual of spending my lunch hour with my grandparents, like I had done when I was an intern for the past two summers. But things weren’t the same.

Gone were the times when my grandfather and I would yell out the answers to Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? and Family Feud. Or him having ice cream after lunch and coercing me into having some too. Instead, I would walk into the house and see his empty recliner, an indication that he was in bed sleeping.

Eventually he had to go into the hospital. And keeping with my own tradition, I made it a point to go and see him every day. I’d tell him about work and we would talk about the latest Jeopardy episode. Anything to act like it was just another normal day. And he started to get better.

He began joking around again, and telling stories about when he was younger. There was never a push for a story, something would jog his memory and he would just start to tell it. And I breathed those stories in.

He got to come home and more often I would find him in his recliner watching the Game Show Network when I walked in for lunch. The tables turned and I was the one getting him to eat a bowl of ice cream after lunch. Anything to help him gain some weight back, to continue to get strong and stay healthy.

And my bank of memories and stories grew.

One day it would be a story about his pilot days — crazy storms he had to fly through, different people he met over the years, places he had flown to with my grandmother. The next week could be a reminiscence of pranks he used to play on people back in high school. Or a memory of a date he had with my grandmother when he was courting her.

My favorite ones, though, were of when he was a kid growing up on the Island. He would talk about a place I know today and say what it used to be back then. I loved picturing the old places that have since transformed, and imagining my grandfather hanging out there with his friends.

As 2014 winds down and Christmas is upon us once more, I can’t help but look back over this past year and be grateful. My perfect view of the world with my grandparents has stayed in tact. I get to spend lunch with someone I have grown to love more with each passing day. And I’ve realized that life isn’t about having materialistic things. I don’t need anything fancy this year. Because this Christmas I got the greatest gift of all.

I got another year with my rock. I got another year with my grandfather.