Last week Pip’s Great-Grandpa, my paternal Grandpa, passed away. He was 90 years old.
He had a soft spot for Pip that was endearing and very moving. He loved seeing her, and even made the 90 minute car ride twice to come to her happy occasions at our house. He would waggle his fingers at her and say her name in a sing-song voice, smiling and grinning at her. He always made sure to get pictures taken with her. It was very touching to see him like this with her, so sweet, gentle and kind.
One of the trips he made with Grandma to our house was for Pip’s baptism. At the baptism, the Deacon commented that although the infants would not remember this day, we would remember it for them and tell them about it, so they would know. It was a beautiful sentiment of being a witness for our children. This concept gives us an added sense of purpose, and it fills us with hope for the future and pride that we can partake in these special moments.
What the Deacon said touched not only me but also my grandfather. I knew this because he repeated it to me later at the house, that we would remember this day and tell her about it so she could remember it too.
And I will remember you, Grandpa, and tell Pip about you, so that she remembers you, too.
She’ll know about my athletic Grandpa, who swam laps at the Y every day until he was 90. She’ll know about supportive Grandpa, who loved sports, came to so many of our games over the years, and was even on the chain gang for the local high school football team. As a young girl, I remember him standing out there, in his orange rain suit, walking the lines, a part of the game.
She’ll know about my playful Grandpa, who brought donuts over our house when we were kids – the real donuts, the kinds that come in unmarked, white boxes, and are the size of your head, dripping in gooey icing. She’ll know about my Grandpa the chef, who was a mean cook, and a very cool baker! She’ll receive recipes of his stand-out meals, such as Christmas’s fish dishes (fried scallops, smelts, spaghetti & squid, baked stuff shrimp) which Mommy helped him make one year. And his infamous baked macaroni and cheese, pepper biscuits and wine biscuits. And his pizzelles, how he always seemed to have a batch made, and which he brought for her Baptism and 1st Birthday party.
She’ll know about how important family is to him: husband to 1, dad to 4, grandpa to 15, great-grandpa to 9, brother to 7 and uncle and cousin to many many more. She’ll know that he and Grandma celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary one week before he died. She’ll know that they eloped when they were teenagers, and she’ll know how he and his siblings started Family Day, our annual family reunion that’s been going on for over 35 years now, where he’d cook and then go win a game of bocci. She’ll know about the 4th of July parties Grandma & Grandpa held every year, for everyone even remotely related to them, including the year of our wedding when all our English guests celebrated their first July 4th with them. And how, as a kid on the 4th, I’d look forward to a morning donut with him before walking down to the parade. She’ll know boisterous and mischievous Grandpa, that he was called the Mayor of the street he lived on, and how everywhere he went he knew someone, and how he charmed all the ladies at the coffee shops and grocery stores.
She’ll know he was of the earth, loved the outdoors, loved the ocean, and she’ll know about his garden, just fields filled with every vegetable imaginable, bordered by rows and rows of fruit trees and berry bushes. She’ll know how my siblings and I worked that garden for him and Grandma. She’ll know he loved getting a good deal, and that he really loved telling people how to do things. She’ll know about how he gave my sister a shovel once, and told her to whack the woodchuck as he flooded it out of its home, to just “swing the shovel like a bat!”
She’ll hear about how he was in WWII, in the effort on the home front, driving the boys around, since a medical condition kept him from going overseas. She’ll know about how he stole his older brother’s ID so he could join the CCC. She’ll know about the military service at his funeral, how they shot three rounds, how the trumpet played in his honor, and how they folded up the flag and gave it to my grandma.
And he will live on…. we will make sure of it.