Oh, sweet Papa.
When I saw you on Friday night, I knew that I would be writing this post soon. Too soon for me.
But I am a girl who has been blessed for the past 41 years of my life because you were in it. And very few granddaughters get that much time.
So, with a box of Kleenex nearby, it’s time to tell you some of my sweetest memories of one of the most important men in my life.
My earliest memory of my Papa occurred while he and my Grandmother were babysitting us. If we were being watched past our bedtime, my Papa and my Grandma would both hold me, one of them at my feet and the other at my hands and swing me like a jumprope. They would, in unison, say “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready….and FOUR TO GO!” And they would toss me onto their bed. Of course, as any good kid does, we would beg for them to do this over and over again, giggling with each toss. They would toss my brother & I into bed several times before our evening prayers and then we would sleep until our parents arrived to pick us up.
From there, I remember jumping off their 2-foot bench in front of the fireplace in their home, thinking that I had just jumped about 20 feet. I would say “Papa, Papa, watch me!” And he would.
Throughout my youth, my Papa also played the role of Santa Claus. On each Christmas Eve, he would arrive as my Dad & Uncle threw rocks on the roof (to simulate the reindeer, of course) and Santa would come strolling in with his bag of small gifts for the grandchildren. When I was quite young, I once delighted the crowd by yelling “Throw it to me, Santa, throw it to me.” Even then, I wasn’t a huge fan of people in costume.
As the oldest grandchild, I clued in eventually to what was going on and had the opportunity to help Santa & Mrs. Claus get ready a few years. I remember feeling so mature because I knew the secret identity of Santa Claus while other cousins were still enjoying the mystery.
I was fortunate to nearly always live within a mile of my grandparents when I was young. As I got older, I was allowed to ride my bike over to my grandparents house and there would sit with my Papa outside while he worked on his yard. We would enjoy a glass of lemonade, sit on his back porch and bite into a few, fresh cherry tomatoes. He would often ask about school and what excited us as kids. He was my Papa and I knew he loved me.
My Papa was a janitor. His professional charge was keeping our local public schools clean so that students could learn. He would often tell stories of mischief at the school and from him, I learned that no matter our calling, it is our duty to do the best work that we can. His constant encouragement and pride he would have in a job well done was just another way that you knew he loved you.
During our summers growing up, our families would travel to South Twin Lake, fish and play cards. One important life lesson my Papa taught me was to hit the bathroom BEFORE going fishing because when that boat left the shore, it might be a while until it returned. We had some hilarious moments in his rowboat. There was the time I dropped a whole fishing pole off the side of the boat. And other times where we would make up stories about the other boats we would run across…..because “everyone has a story” and if we didn’t know what theirs was, we could just make one up and laugh. We pretended Root Beer made us giggle and Papa always made me put my own worm on my fishing hook, no matter how eeewie I thought worms were.
Papa was also an avid reader. He loved to read a good novel, recent political book and his Bible. He was a man of God who spoke plainly and clearly about life and his salvation. I loved, as a kid, sitting by my grandparents in church and watching him leaf through his well-worn Scriptures. For years, my grandparents also served the cookies and punch after church. And sometimes, I would get the opportunity to help them. This past Sunday, as I watched my own daughter help prepare a potluck table, I was reminded of how these precious moments taught me the importance of living in service to others.
To my Papa, it was never about the money or the show, despite the funny little rhyme that he would use to throw us into bed.
When Papa was hospitalized years ago, when I was in college, I had the unique opportunity of being able to simply be present with my Papa while he healed. I enjoyed those special days, playing crossword puzzles with Grandma and helping to take her mind off my Papa’s illness.
I’ll forever remember his love for my grandmother. If you knew my grandparents, you know he adored my grandmother. In all the years that I knew him, I never saw him as lost as when my grandmother was hospitalized just a few years ago. One of our favorite, relatively recent memories was taking Papa to a local frozen yogurt joint where he could add all his own toppings to his yogurt. Despite missing Grandma terribly, we were so happy to see him smile and enjoy a moment with us, but he couldn’t wait to return to see her the next day.
Tonight, as we mourn the loss of our sweet Papa, my kids & I returned to the frozen yogurt shop and raised our froyo’s in honor of my Papa and their Great-Papa and toasted one of the strongest, kindest and most gentle Papa’s we have been blessed to know. While we were eating our frozen yogurt, my son asked “So, do you think Great Pop-Pop has eaten anything other than frozen yogurt since he went to heaven this morning?” I assured him that he was probably busy tasting a few new things up there, with a wink.
My Papa spent 91 incredible years on the ‘Three to get ready’….
And this morning, the angels could be heard saying “FOUR TO GO.”
I love you, Papa. See if you can get Jonah to play a game of Gin Rummy. And, perhaps, if he isn’t too busy, you might see if Peter can take you out fishing on his boat. We’ll take good care of Grandma and we’ll see you soon.
We are your legacy.
Thank you for loving us.