Tomorrow marks exactly one year since my Pop moved on to Heaven. I say that with confidence, because while my Pop was larger than life here, he was forever a humble, faithful servant of God and His people.
They say the first year is the hardest. I’ll say I’m not so sure. The first year is, by it’s nature full of “firsts” and figuring out how to do things for the “first” time. It’s about their first birthday in heaven, the first holiday, or family tradition they are not there to participate in. And, while this year was tougher than I imagined it would be, I’m not so sure it will be the hardest.
I should be embarrassed at 43 years old to be lamenting the loss of my 96 year old grandfather. I should simply be full of gratitude for the years we had, and for the time we shared. But, that’s not exactly how it works. You see for 42 years I knew NOTHING other than having him there. All the time.
All loss is tragic, to different people, in different ways, and at different times.
We lived in the first floor of their house for 15 years. I kissed them goodnight. They fed me breakfast. They came to our school shows and plays. He drove us to practice. Watching him love my Grandma showed me so much about how a relationship needs to be nurtured.
We vacationed together for about the same span. Ocean City, New Jersey. Still to this date some of the best summers of my life.
We moved when Mom married, but that changed little. We didn’t move far. At first it was walking distance, then driving. Pop taught me how to check the fluids in my first car, and how to measure the pressure in my tires. He told me never to let anyone think I didn’t know what I was doing. He meant under the hood of the car, and everywhere else too.
He and Grandma drove to college to visit. We talked on the phone regularly.
And when I was back home, there were trips to their living room. I usually chose a spot on the floor where I could get a clear view of Pop in his chair. Come to think of it, I almost always sat on the floor. I think it was because even when I became an adult, he was larger than life in my mind. The view seemed more fitting.
There were stories, about the war, about the firehouse, about church and the bank. There were stories, and memories and laughs. There was, “Oh, boy!,” and “Come on!”
There was “Susie,” from a man who spent most of his life in a house with too many women. We even had numbers… “Susie 1, Susie 2…” And to the rest of the women, young and old, “Susie” was a term of endearment.
There were stories I heard dozens of times, and ones I only heard once. Yet, they all blur together now. How I wish I had recorded them. Or written them down.
What I would give to hear, “Who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?” just once more…
He was always there. Always. No matter what was needed, the answer was always yes. Always.
For a while I thought Pop was the tough one. I later learned that my larger than life Grandfather was not tough at all next to my little Grandma. Although, I was an adult the first time I saw Pop cry. And it didn’t happen often. Once was when Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The second was during a Memorial Service at church on September 12, 2001. There were a handful… but, those two I can picture as if they were yesterday.
When we bought the house in 2000 I wanted wood trim. He was 81. Every day for months I would come home from work elated as a new piece of trim was placed, around a door, window, or floor. There is no room in my home he hasn’t touched. And for that I am so grateful.
He took my husband in as his own. Immediately. He took my husband under his wing and let him extract years of knowledge from his brain. He taught Felix carpentry and wood working tricks, and helped him find confidence in his own abilities.
My daughter loved Pop. I loved the way his great-grandchildren rejuvenated him. It’s hard for me to imagine that just 5 years ago Pop and Grandma were getting Meghan from half days at school.
There are no words for Pop. Even as I try and images flood my mind – there are no words to do justice for the influence he had in shaping me into the woman I am today.
I always knew there would come a day when his body would no longer be with us. I always knew. Yet, I could never really have been prepared.
I wish I had listened a little more closely. I wish I had hugged a little tighter. I wish I had taken just a few minutes to record his stories. But, I watched. And I observed. And I felt the love. And I witnessed the compassion. And I watched a true Christian man support his family to the best of his ability, at all times, and in all places.
I will never forget the lessons he taught. His influence is etched in my heart.
Maybe that’s why I’m not sure the first year is going to be the hardest. I’m certain that not a day will go by without thoughts, words of wisdom, advice, or a smile from him.
I will treasure every single moment, even as the years will surely blur them together.
It’s a blessing to be 42 when you lose your grandparent, but it’s a blessing riddled with irony. If you’ve been lucky enough to be in my position – you know exactly what I mean.
Oh, and Pop, I could use some extra angel power tomorrow at noon. I could never do your memory justice without my voice, so lets keep that surgeon’s hand firm?
Love you always…