Friday, February 13, 2009

RIP Grandpa

It's taken me awhile to write this, because every time I start I end up getting emotional and deleting it. My grandpa passed away very recently. He was the best man I have ever met, he taught me how to be an emotionally wealthy person, which I now am. He taught me so much about love, family, and friendship. I knew him from his retirement until this year, I was a toddler at his retirement party. I remember the cake vividly. It had a plastic little man chilling in a hammock with a fishing hat on. He kept that little man on his desk in his basement for years afterwards.

I am not sure if it was just boredom from retirement, or if he was like this his whole life, but he was the most organized person I have ever met. He has a wood shop in his garage, which was immaculate, everything had a place. Same with his workshop in his basement. He knew the exact dates that filters needed to changed, light bulbs went in, cars needed oil changes. He never let the tank in his car go lower than 1/4 of a tank, he considered that empty. I forgot why, but I think I need to fill up whenever I am at a quarter tank now. The grass at my grandparent's house was like a rug. I loved to just lay in the grass. As he got older and couldn't do much anymore it was so hard to watch, he would always try to do things, and we would have to stop him and do it. Like raking the leaves, or mowing the lawn, shoveling snow. Luckily he surrounded himself with great friends, who could help him with that stuff, but I'll get to that later. As anal as my grandpa was about his things, he would let me take his hammers and nails and break up the cement in the driveway to try to find ants and other bugs hiding in the cracks. In fact, he gave me my own special rubber mallet just for ruining his driveway so I wouldn't get hurt.

I was so lucky to have grown up with the unconditional love that I did, I have suffered from anxiety and depression for the majority of my life so having the love and the family that I have saved me. My grandpa was exceptional in that department. From the moment I was born my grandfather was amazing, I have an older cousin, Heather, and two younger brothers and we were the center of his world. When I was a baby he would bring me a cupcake for each month I was born. He would build us toys, some of which I still have for my daughter. Every teacher that we had in school knew who my grandpa was. He would help in all of our classes, involving himself in our lives as much as possible. As I got older and more rebellious I would chop off all of my hair and dye it horrible colors, I wore punk rock, boyish outfits and my grandpa would tell me how beautiful I was and you could tell he actually meant it. I would bring the absolute worst, smelly, tattooed, greasy boys to Sunday dinner and my grandpa would smile and shake their hand and humor them. Even the sociopaths would leave saying my grandpa was the nicest man they had ever met.

When it came down to learning about love, my grandparents set the bar for every relationship I would ever have. My parents were great parents, but they divorced when I was young so they weren't the best lovers. My grandparents showed me what a marriage and love is supposed to look like, and my grandpa showed me how a man is supposed to treat a woman. My grandpa would leave love notes for my grandma around the house, on paper plates. They would be taped up in the kitchen, and say things like, "And they said it wouldn't last...", and "I love you more today than yesterday...". My grandparents complimented each other so well, they would finish each other's sentences, my grandma is more take charge and my grandpa more laid back. When it came time for me to fall in love, I fell for someone just like my grandpa. My husband is a hopeless romantic, he leaves me notes in the kitchen, his wood shop is immaculate, he saves every user manual for everything, and his name is Michael. How fitting. I am so blessed, and it's because my grandpa showed me what the perfect man is.

Friendship was important to my grandpa, he is loyal to his friends, and has known many for years. He loved his church family, especially the children. I can tell you stories about kids I have never met, just because my grandpa talked about them so much. He carried suckers in his pockets for kids, and prayed for the children at his church at our Sunday dinners. He also made friends everywhere he would go, after having to get all of our cars fixed so much (which my grandpa would insist on paying for) he became friends with the guys at the car place. He would bring grandma's baked goods and chili up there. One of the guys, Eric, would wake up at 6AM before work and snow blow my grandpa's sidewalk for him. Amazing. Then my cousin Fred moved next door and he would do it. His other friends that he has had forever he would speak to not as often, as far as I know, but he did keep in touch.

I remember so many times and stories about my grandpa that make me happy, like when my mom used to make raw egg sandwiches in her easy bake oven, and my grandpa would smile and eat them and say how delicious they are. Or the plastic motorcycle that my best friend Angela's son had that was a hand-me-down to my son, Max. It didn't make noise anymore, big deal right? Oh yes it was, my grandpa spent weeks working on the electrical for this plastic toy just to make it more special for Max. That's how my grandpa was, he wanted to make everybody else feel special. He was the most selfless person I have known. If I ever said I liked something that he owned, he would try to give it to me. One time grandma wanted a boom box, they bought a cute one at Target and when I saw it I said "oh, I like that, it's cute!" Then grandpa started trying to give it to me. I told him I have quite the sound system of my own, and grandma said she hasn't even had it a couple days, but grandpa kept trying to give it to me. He would always slip money into my hand, and I knew it would be easier to take it than to argue with him. He wasn't made of money, but anything he had was ours, and he made sure we knew it. I knew he would give an arm for any of us, and I would do the same for anyone in my life, and I learned that from him.

There is so many more fantastic things about my grandpa, he raised three girls, one of them my mother, he was a veteran, he was a hard-working man all of his life, and I wish I would have known him then, but I didn't. I knew him for 23 years, and I'm glad I caught the years I did because he was the best grandpa I could have had. I am trying to think of what I can get out of his life, or the legacy that he has left. I always see quotes about if you make someones life more special than you have lived a fulfilling life. I believe in this with all my heart. What I have learned from my grandpa is what love really is, and making my marriage beautiful, and to make my children's lives magical every day. Just like he made my life magical. Then hopefully they will grow up with the same values, and pass them on to their children. I will never be as selfless and fantastic as my grandpa was, but having him in my life has made me at least want to try daily. Thank you Grandpa, I can't wait to see you again, and when I do I know your hands will be working, your legs will be strong, and you will have a perfect lawn for us to lay in.

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