The first thing you should know about the grandfather that I lost yesterday is that I never once called him grandpa, grandfather or grand anything. He was my Popie. I am the second of many grand and great grand children. So, when my cousin and I dubbed him Popie, Popie he became for all that followed.
I grew up in a house filled with extended family. Popie was my de facto father, when mine was absent. He was a country boy. The baby of the family. The only son after seven girls. He was tall. He was handsome. He was a veteran. He was a young husband. He was a dad. Ironically, to five daughters, bracketed by boys.
Then he was a grandfather. And a retiree. And a man with black hair on his head and a white mustache. And then a man with no mustache. And the kind of man we called Mad Dog, as he had a temper to deserve such a name. He liked to sneak and eat things in the fridge after we’d all gone to bed. He was an avid reader, and destroyer of books. He liked to tell us ENDLESSLY of his plans. Plans he never quite got around to putting into action.
He liked to denounce TV. And throw out TVs. And then get a new one and start again. He was a drinker. And then he wasn’t. And we didn’t know which to prefer. He often called me by my aunt’s name. He liked to call our friends “the cute one” or “the ugly one” or “that skinny girl that comes by here”. He liked to remind me how he thought I’d never grow. He liked to grab your shoulder and lean in too close when he spoke. He liked to argue. Longest when he was wrong.
And then he was sick. And then he was worse. And then he forgot all of these things from time to time. And then he was lost in his own mind some days. And now he is gone. And my sister, for whom he was the only father she ever knew, is devastated and I can’t fix it.
We will never hear his voice again.
We will never make another plan.
It hasn’t quite sunk in.
I am tasked with writing his obituary, undoubtedly one of the hardest things I will ever be asked to write. How do you write about someone you’ve known your whole life, but, in a way, never really knew?
Hug your grandparents if you still have them. I will try to do better with the three I now have left.