Sunday, April 7, 2013
I have many memories of my Grandpa Jack. He was one of the coolest guys I knew. He was also one of the loudest.
Yes, something that sets my Grandpa apart from most people was his voice. You could hear it for miles. It was loud and booming. Most of us grandchildren (especially me) were terrified of him as babies and toddlers, because it was so loud. But it was also one of the things I loved most about him. It made nearly everything he said funnier. He always answered the phone with a booming "YELLO?" that made you break into a smile when you heard it. One time, we saw him and my grandma in Church. They did not regularly attend our church, they belonged to a different one. So my mom walked over and ask "what are you doing here?" to which Gramps responded "GOING TO CHURCH!" so loudly that I burst into giggles and hysterics.
Grandpa was the kind of guy that everyone knew and liked. He had a rough exterior, but deep down he was a sweet guy with a great sense of humor. He had many friends, and built a very strong leadership with his job at Ford. He cared about his kids and his grand kids, he always wanted to make sure we had fun. On one of our many trips to Florida, I was sitting in his condo and was kind of upset because one of my cousins was teasing me. My grandpa told me I didn't have to go back outside and that I could watch TV with him. He was watching Golf, which was the very last thing I wanted to watch, but I did anyways. 10 minutes in, he changed the channel to cartoons just to make me happy.
My grandpa loved golf. He played bridge, he liked to read and he was one of the smartest men I have ever known. He would help me with my math and science homework when I was in 8th grade, and I sure wish I had him around in high school for geometry. He could calculate things and figure out equations so easily. I have visions of him sitting at his kitchen table, whistling, and doing crossword puzzles. He used to fill them out with those big, black pencils that I'm pretty sure don't even exist anymore. Oh, and he also loved desert. After every big family meal he would put his fists down and say "what's for desert?". He usually wanted the richest item available.
He also LOVED Notre Dame- and that was carried down to the rest of us. One time my brother and I were having a sleepover at their condo and Grandpa wanted us watch a movie about Knute Rockne. My brother loved it and talked with my Grandpa through the whole thing. I was bored to tears, but remember watching their interaction and being so happy that they had that love in common. Grandpa's dream was always for one of his grandchildren to go attend Notre Dame. None of us have, yet. Connor, pressure is on you, kiddo!
Whenever we would sleepover at my grandparents house, we woke up to the smell of eggs and bacon. Gramps would cook the eggs in butter and bacon grease, so they were especially delicious. He'd whistle as he cooked and sit down with us as we ate, asking us questions about school and our grades. He always wanted us to do well in school, and he was proud when we should him our report cards.
I think what I loved most about my grandpa, though, was his love for my grandma. She was my favorite person in the entire world. She passed away very suddenly, and that broke Grandpa. He was always the strong one, but suddenly without her he was weak. That's when I really realized how much he loved her. When we were going through all of her stuff, which he made us do immediately we found all these old cards and letters he had written her. My mom has some of them, and I love to look at them and see his handwriting and to feel the love he had for her. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever touched.
My grandpa took a slow decline after grandma died, and soon he was very sick. We put him in an assisted living and would all go visit him and try to cheer him up. The aides and nurses loved him. How could you not? I remember when we put him on hospice. His social worker was especially helpful to my siblings, cousins, and myself. Gramps passed in August 2001. Right before the September 11th terrorist attacks. I was at field hockey camp when he died. I can't remember if I really got to say goodbye. I knew that there was a chance he would die while I was gone, but I don't think I was really prepared. I was only 14, and he was the last grandparent I had left. I remember standing on the field hockey field when I found out. My coach approached me and told me that she just got the phone call. My team surrounded me- they barely even knew me, but they were there for me. They brought me s'mores and let me cry. I don't really remember my grandpa's funeral. I think I have blocked it out. I just remember feeling an overall emptiness. Life would not be the same without him.
Last September, my grandpa would have turned 100 years old. My family celebrated him. We ate all his favorite foods- fried kidneys, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, and pie. Yes, those were his favorite foods and no, he didn't die of heart attack or anything heart related. In fact, as he was dying, his heart was the last organ to shut down. Amazing, huh? After our meal, we sat around and each shared our favorite memory of Grandpa Jack. They were all funny. Like the time he accidentally sat on someone in a movie theater because it was dark and he couldn't see. Or the time he took some of his children to a wax museum and tried to pay the wax figurine that was greeting them at the entrance.
Gramps was an awesome guy, the kind of guy I wish everyone knew. I know that this post is already super long, but I have to admit something that I've never really said before- all through high school I was pretty bitter and jealous of all my friends. I was the only one amongst us who didn't have any grandparents left, and when one of them did have a grandparent pass, I had a hard time feeling sympathetic. I know that makes me sound like a horrible person, and it's something I struggle with and still pray about. I was just...jealous I guess. My grandparents never got to see me graduate high school or cheer me on in any of my high school activities. That always made me terribly sad. But now that I'm older and a little less selfish I know that they WERE with me in spirit. I sure hope I have made them proud. I know I've made mistakes, but I love my all four of my grandparents deeply and I want them to know how much I miss them and wish that I had more time with them.
I love you, Grandpa Jack, and I miss you. Thank you for all the happy memories you have given me.