I want to take a minute to talk about my grandpa. As most of you know, my grandpa Lou passed away on Saturday. He was 94 years old. He was a three time cancer survivor, and I’d rather focus on the fact that he beat this horrible disease three times instead of losing to it once. 3-1 is a pretty good record if you ask me. Anyway, I’d rather focus on his life rather than his death, because the legacy of your life is what you leave behind.
My grandpa was an incredible man. He was hardworking, honest, sweet and gentle. He was always kind. He loved his family, not in an over the top affectionate way, but in a way that was always under the surface so that you always knew it was there. We moved into a two family house on Staten Island when I was 10 (maybe 11, I have a crap memory) so for a large part of my life I saw him every single day. Before I got my driver’s license he used to drop me off and pick me up at my first job. I remember I would quickly change his old school music station to z100 and he would shake his head as I belted out the words to Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. I actually can’t believe I ever sang the words to “I’m A Slave For You” in his presence. He never changed the channel though.
He and my grandma used to take me and my brother to Coney Island and the Aquarium in the summer. I remember we would drive to Brooklyn and take the train, because at the time the subway was a novelty and not the fresh hell I experience every day now. He used to sit outside while Nick and I would swim in our backyard in the summer. He never came in the pool but he was always there.
He loved crossword puzzles and is the only person I know who was actually good at them. I bought him so many crossword puzzle books over the years. My heart ached on Saturday when I found two brand new ones in his dresser drawer on Saturday completely empty. But on top of those crossword puzzles were hundreds of pictures of his family. His grandchildren, brother and sister, nieces, nephews and cousins. He kept them all in envelopes.
He loved sweets. He had a stash of Hershey bars in his drawer. You could always count on a couple of Reese’s next to the couch in his living room. He was such an old school Italian guy in the best way. My grandma took amazing care of him every day they were together. They’d have all their meals together and growing up I always had dinner with them at least 3 times a week. He loved to put hot pepper on everything. Seriously, everything. When we had BBQS in the summer he would put hot pepper on his hot dogs and then he’d wash it down with a can of Budweiser.
He rarely raised his voice (except one time when my brother flooded their entire bathroom rinsing out his bathing suit in the sink and just forgot to turn the sink off) and he NEVER complained. He was quiet but always whipped out these amazing one liners that would have everyone laughing. One of my favorite things to do at family dinners was mess his hair up. I’d get some gel and give him a Mohawk and have him look at it in the mirror across the dining room table. I did this well into adulthood. I even did it a few weeks ago when he was in the hospital and he still let me, even when he was in pain. The last time I saw him I smoothed his hair back away from his face. Even at the end he let me.
Today is six years since Eric asked me to marry him. This will always be tied to my grandfather. You see, the engagement ring I wear on my left hand is the ring my grandpa picked out for my grandma almost 70 years ago. The exact same ring. Eric knew I wanted a ring like my grandma’s, and my grandma asked grandpa for permission to give the ring to Eric to give to me. He said yes without any hesitation. He was there six years ago today when Eric put it on my finger. In the video I have of that moment you can hear him shouting “uh oh!” the second Eric gets down on one knee. I have a piece of him forever, entwined with the happiness of one of the best moments of my life.
I will miss my grandpa every day of my life. I know how lucky I am to have had him for this long, but it doesn’t take the pain and sadness away that I don’t have him anymore. I think of all the Saturday morning breakfasts we had with Charlotte and how I wish I knew the last one would be the last one so I could have stayed there all day. Every time I see a plastic shopping bag I will think of how he sat at the dining room table and folded every single one of them up, origami style, to keep in the closet. Seriously, there are enough folded up plastic bags in there to last for years. Whenever I see an ice bucket I’ll think of how he filled it for every family gathering and got everyone drinks. Whenever I see the swing in my parents yard I’ll think of him sitting there with Spanky, eyes closed with the breeze on his face. I will always think of him, the wonderful and kind man who loved his family above all else. He was incredible and I wish you all could have known him. He would have pulled you up a chair and asked my grandma to get you a cup of coffee.
Our Christmas will be sad. But I hope his Christmas is the best one yet. With a big table filled with his family. Fat and young and happy. I hope he’s sitting next to my grandpa Duke telling him all about Charlotte. I hope he knows how much we loved him and how much we miss him.