I’d so much rather talk to you in person, but Mesothelioma sucked the life out of you and stole you away too soon. I’d love to see your face and hear your responses to my words, but this is going to have to be a one way conversation. I pray these words find their way to you.
Although you are physically gone, please know that you are forever in my heart. I mean, you’ve been around all my life … until now. I am who I am today because of you, and I wanted you to know some of the things you taught me.
The era I grew up in was one where the dads went to work and the moms got us to school, did the cooking and cleaning, got us to cheerleading and play practice, and handled all the things of home. Pop, you were always a hard worker and showed great responsibility to your occupation. Thank you for teaching me good work ethics and the value of being responsible.
Although you worked hard, you always made time for hobbies and vacations. From making model canons, gun collecting, rebuilding old Harley Davidson motorcycles, and carving wooden spoons, to all the fantastic knowledge you gained as you restored hundred year old oil lamps, your creativity and meticulous ability to restore things to new both amaze and inspire me. In our house you were always able to fix whatever was broken. You could take things apart and put them back together. You became an expert on everything you put your hands to. Through the years when we’d start talking about something, you astonished me every time how you could turn around and, without taking any time to search, pull the specific book off the vast shelf full of books that would answer the questions about what we were discussing. Thank you for teaching me to be curious and inquisitive and to always search for knowledge. Some of your projects took hours, if not days or weeks of work. For all those hours we waited outside in the sweltering summer sun while you measured and made drawings of historical canons, I guess I thank you for teaching me patience.
Your sense of curiosity carried over to the way you played and vacationed. There were never any structured tours for this family. Oh no. Whether it was the south eastern United States or a trip to Germany, you got out a map and we drove. Although Fodor’s helped us with some of our destinations, you were also great at following that squiggly little line on the map to see where we’d end up. Thank you for showing me that there is a whole world to explore and that the adventure includes the foods we find at our various destinations. I’ll never forget that hot fishy smell created by the shrimp you bought off of the boats in Florida and cooked in the little kitchen of our scalding, humid, un air-conditioned little motel room. In sharp contrast to that, I’ll never forget sitting on the hillside in Norway with the picturesque fjord below while we made lunch of a fresh baguette of bread, some reindeer salami, and the sweetest garden fresh carrots all purchased at the local farmers market just down the road.
Speaking of food, there were many different kinds that I have come to know, thanks to you. You taught me that there is nothing better than homemade beef jerky, homemade root beer, hand cranked ice cream, hand pressed apple cider, and a can full of homemade caramel corn at Christmas. I’ve also learned how delicious fried scrapple is and cornmeal mush too. And okra must be fried with some cornmeal, and Prosciutto ham can never be sliced too thin. And by the way, nothing tastes as good today as it did in the past.
Pop, I don’t recall many instances when you raised your voice and you were, in fact, fairly quiet at times. When you did speak it was always meaningful, wise, or thoughtful. Thank you for teaching me that there’s so much more to learn by listening. Do you know, that the other day I was searching for something in the basement of your house and I was overwhelmed by all the lamps, guns, steam engines, tools, thingamabobs, and trunks full of stuff that you could give voice to. You brought all those things to life by telling the story and the history of that object. With you gone now, it’s as if you took the voice and life out of all those many things. I was so sad. The silence was deafening.
You know, Ted made a video of you with eighty seven years of photographs. I want to tell you that I was struck at how most of those photos showed a man full of joy and with a big smile on his face. You grabbed life and ran, didn’t you? You were spontaneous and fearless as you embraced life with a passion. I’ve also heard stories about you lately, because people miss you and want to share the memories. Your niece, my cousin, Patrice told me, quote “Your Dad was a wonderful man. One of the memories I have from the time when we lost my sister Mary Lee … he held my hand at the cemetery and I’ve always remembered that even though I was just 5 or so at the time. He took care of me.”
Pop, thank you for taking care of me, and for teaching me patience, responsibility, and curiosity. I hope life can continue to take me to new places, and with new foods to discover. I want to greet each new day with enthusiasm and smiles. I’m not happy about going on without you. I will miss your wisdom, and your love, and your stories. But if you could, maybe once in a while, if I could just feel your hand in mine. I know I’ll be okay.
I love you Pop.