My grandpa went to heaven suddenly this week. I have been grieving and trying to compose my thoughts. I have searched through countless pictures to find the ones I treasure. Somehow, I just haven't been able to get the words out. I am going to attempt to share what I loved about him. I want a written record of what he brought to my life. My children knew him and I want them to remember these special things about him.
When he looked at me, I always felt loved and lovely. Even in the awkward stages. Maybe especially then. I always knew he was proud of me. I know he was human and just like all of us he had his faults but I cannot recall receiving a single cross word from him. As a child, I loved to climb onto his lap and listen to him read a story to me. An activity that was made even sweeter when my cousin was on his lap with me. I have fond memories of riding in his orange pick up truck. He and Grandma always made our time with them fun. They had to work at the furniture store they owned so they came up with all kinds of activities to keep us occupied. We made cardboard box villages in Carpet Alley and used the furniture movers he made as skate boards/scooters. The goal of each summer day was to eventually close up the store and get back to their house for swimming. Oh the joy! We played on the swing set, dug in the sandbox and even got some rides on his golf cart. When the sun went down we always had one more special treat to look forward to...midnight snacks with Grandpa. It was pure delight to stay up past our bedtimes and share a sweet dessert with Grandpa and Grandma.
I remember sitting on his swing with him. We would swing back and forth as we talked about what was going on. I remember how his strong hands felt and how tight his hugs were. He always smelled good. One of my little girls mentioned this to me too. She said, "Mom, Papa had a nice smell to go with him." I agreed. I remember how he looked at me in my wedding gown and made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I remember dancing with him at my wedding even though I knew it was becoming more and more difficult for him to stand let alone dance.
I loved the way he talked about my Grandma. I loved to hear him tell the story of how he met and fell in love with her. I will miss hearing him call her "honey" and the way he insisted on a kiss from her before bed. One of my favorite stories he told was about dancing with her when she was very pregnant with one of their children. He thought pregnant women were beautiful and he celebrated with each of us as we brought our babies into the world. He had a tender place in his heart for babies. I was always excited to bring my new little one out and watch him snuggle and adore each one. I always knew he and Grandma would be up early having a cup of coffee so my short night with a newborn would end with handing the little bundle over to him while I enjoyed a cup of coffee too. Those cozy, sleep deprived, early morning visits are among my favorite memories tucked in my heart.
When we told he and Grandma that we were planning to adopt, they supported us fully. I remember how much I adored his response when I told him that we were open to adopting children of any race, not just our own. He said, "Honey, all babies need love." And that was that. He delighted in the arrival of our children gifted to us through adoption. He was smitten with them the moment he laid eyes on them. You could see how proud he was of all his grandchildren and great grandchildren. We were a source of great joy for him and we all knew it.
When we came for visits, my oldest boys would stay up late to watch news and discuss politics with their Papa and Nana (what they call them). You better believe they got in on plenty of midnight snacks. A precious tradition continued with my children. Another favorite activity for all the great grand kids was getting a ride from him on his scooter. Oh my. I have so many adorable pictures. Grandpa was always gentle and patient with the little ones. He would slowly win over a shy toddler. They were always drawn to him and it didn't take them long to ask to be in his arms.
Grandma kept a lot of the letters I sent to them over the years. I found one from my 17 year old self that said, "Kiss Grandpa for me." This is how I end most of my interactions with Grandma to this day. It was either "Hug Grandpa or Kiss Grandpa for me". He wasn't a big phone talker but I knew she would give him my love when we got off the phone. There is deep sadness in knowing that he won't be sitting next to her in his chair discussing what is going on with the grandkids. He won't be sharing midnight snacks anymore or giving scooter rides. I won't feel his big bear hug or hear "I love you" from him anymore. I am a grown woman with children of my own and yet the loss of a grandpa brings you right back to being a little girl.
My youngest child said, "Why he die?" and I answered him in confidence, "Sweetie, he died because it was his number of days. They were already written. We can trust our good God with his perfect timing even in our sadness." As I reflect on his life and the influence he had on me I am forever grateful that I got to share 39 years of his "number of days". What a gift! I am looking forward to gathering with my family and celebrating the life of my grandpa. He loved us well.