A Tyler mother received the best gift this holiday season when her 26-year-old son came home for the holidays to surprise her.
Chris Grigsby, 26, walked into the On the Border restaurant in Tyler where his mother was seated at a table with other family members and friends.
Unbeknownst to her, the dinner was a setup, and the others were in on the secret.
“Oh my gosh,” she said when she saw her son and realized it was really him.
They hugged each other for a long time as other patrons in the restaurant clapped.
“This is the best Christmas present I ever had,” said Debbie Grigsby, 58, who works at Community Access.
It’s been about a year since mother and son have seen each other. Chris Grigsby, a U.S. Army sergeant, recently returned from a nine-month tour in Afghanistan. He is stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.
A Tyler native, he is a 2006 graduate of John Tyler High School and attended Tyler Junior College for a several semesters.
In 2009, he decided to join the Army and said he’s enjoyed the experience so far.
“When I joined, I went in as a boy, and I came out a mature man,” he said. “It made me grow up and take responsibility of my life.”
In addition to his time in Afghanistan, he also was stationed in South Korea for about two years.
Chris Grigsby is married to Kayla, 26, a hairstylist, and they have two daughters, Alayna, 4, and Evelyn, 11 months.
He had the help of his sister-in-law in coordinating the surprise. Originally, he was going to surprise one his brother James as well, but when he found out, that idea was nixed. However, the goal remained to stun his mom.
Debbie Grigsby said she was caught completely off-guard. She thought her son was going to come home in mid-January and had posted on Facebook that she was kind of sad because she wasn’t going to see him during the holiday.
When her family and friends invited her to On the Border, she assumed it was because they wanted to cheer her up. And they did, they just had a little more in store than she expected.
“It was overwhelming really,” Debbie Grigsby said. “I hadn’t seen him in over a year. It was the best Christmas present I could ever have.”
Chris and his family plan to spend about 10 days in Tyler before heading back to Georgia.
“To be here for Christmas (and) New Year’s, it’s a blessing,” Chris Grigsby said, adding that his mother’s birthday is on Sunday.
His wife, Kayla, said he should be in the states for at least a year before he has to deploy again.