My grandfather passed away on Sunday evening, May 27th. I have been processing the grief, gratitude, and flood of other emotions this week in many different ways; this is one of them.
There are many in the wider world outside our family who I expect can offer grand and wonderful stories and accolades for your life’s accomplishments, and I intend to soak up every single one of them.
But while some have called you “Captain”, “friend”, and “hero”, there are very few people–three to be exact–who know the distinct honor of calling you “PopPop”. My most treasured thoughts of you will always be through a child’s eyes.
You have been a constant in my life from the day I was born, a rock in our family. A year has not gone by that I haven’t seen you at least once, if not many more times.
You were always faithful to make a child smile–with magic tricks, golf-cart rides, jokes, story-telling, homemade rootbeer, pretending–and sometimes NOT pretending–to steal the food off our plates, playing pool and card games, the “shlabashka”, references to the “huntin’ lodge” and scrapple, homemade cookies and peanut brittle, and making sure each grandchild had a few quarters to take home every time they left your house.
Your Navy uniforms and plaques haven’t lost their glow in my imagination, and I still look on your many beautiful paintings with big, 5-year-old eyes, inlcuding the one that hangs in my kitchen today.
“How does he do that?”
Grandfathers have a way of being larger-than-life to their grand kids, and PopPop, you are no exception.
You and Grandma attended every one of my softball games that you possibly could. And graduation. And my wedding.
And I’m so thankful that in recent years my two boys have had the privilege to know you, though some of the old antics have been replaced by games of “hide and seek”: you clanking your way around the house with your cane or walker while the boys picked out terribly obvious hiding places. You always found them. They always found you. Their boyish giggles and unhindered smiles rivaled only by your own.
Just as you did when I was a kid, you always tried to make sure your great-grand kids went home with quarters in their pockets–only this time there was the chance of getting a double helping since you might forget you’d passed them out already.
Watching you with my own children has helped to keep my child-eyes open. I still see you in awe and wonder with a heaping dose of playfulness and fun.
And while we commit you to the Lord’s keeping, honestly not quite ready to let you go, we hold tight to every precious memory and give thanks for the 95 years of life you were given on this earth. I’m especially thankful for the last 33 of them.
I love you, PopPop. And I miss you.