My Grandpa. Manhattan in hand, always smiling.
Earlier this fall I wrote about all of the wonderful things my Grandmother taught me living next door. What I didn't mention, probably because I knew how emotional I would get- is that I was much closer to my Grandfather growing up. My Grandfather was 100% Irish, worked hard every day of his life. He raised his three kids in a close knit lake community in New Jersey during the 50s and 60s. He and my Grandmother later bought the piece of land next to my parents in upstate New York and he built his house all by himself. He was known in my neighborhood as Gramps. He was every one's Gramp. He went to all of picnics, softball games, regattas and cookouts. If someone needed help with something, he seemed to just show up to lend a hand.
He was everything to me. He picked me up from school if I was sick, he waited for the school bus with me in the freezing cold. He drove me to the mall to meet my friends and then taught me how to drive myself. My favorite memories were outside in the yard, raking leaves until it was dark. We would smell the wood stoves fire up and go inside for dinner. I raced home from school everyday to be with him, no matter what he was doing, I would find him, and join in whatever he was up to. I did this every day until I went to college in late August of 1989. He suddenly passed away a few days after I left for my freshman year. (I secretly think he couldn't bear to live without me at home next door). Here we are together at my high school graduation a few months before I left for college. The last photo of us together:
I have yet to meet someone that makes every one they meet smile and laugh the way he did. He made being happy look so easy. Here are just a few things my Grandpa taught me:
-how to take pride in raking your lawn
-how to make small talk fun
-how to be a good neighbor
-how to be there for your kids and their kids
-how to tell a joke
-how to pull up a lawn chair and sit & watch & talk
-how to never give up on your kids, even when everyone else does
-how to belong to an organization, be involved
-how to provide for your family
-how to uproot everything comfortable and familiar for your kid's sake
-how to drive: cars & and riding lawn mowers
-how to drive manual transmissions
-how to fill a gas tank
-how to read the funnies on a Sunday morning with your Grandkids curled up in your lap
-how to listen to the radio all day, no T.V.
-how to hold hands in public, always.
-how to dress up for the holidays
-how to slow dance
-how to appreciate simple food & simple drink
-how to stock the house before the holidays
-how to love a dog as a best friend
-how to make getting stitches not so bad
-how to tell someone how to do something without sounding superior
-how to take care of your tools
-how salt can add so much flavor
-how to loan money to family, no questions asked
-how to accompany your spouse to events you really don't want to be at
-how to treat brother & sister-in-laws as your own family because you know how much it means to your significant other
-how to smile and laugh and be light-hearted
-how to stand in the sun, hands grasped behind your back, eyes closed to stay warm at the bus stop
-how to let people lean on you without asking any questions
-how to never say goodbye- just: so long, see you later, thanks for the warning.