Day 89- Grandpa Gene

This blog is a positivity only zone, so here’s what I have to say about today. My grandpa got to meet God today. How cool is that?

My grandpa is part of a three way tie with my dad and my husband for the greatest man I have ever known. If there was a build-a-grandpa workshop, I could not have built him better myself. He was equal parts honesty, sincerity, and hilarity; kind as can be and tough as nails; sassy and sweet. He was a devoted husband and father and grandfather and sports fan (go blue!) and Catholic church goer and beer drinker and…

He was a big flirt, never having met a waitress or salesgirl he didn’t like, but I have never seen a man so devoted to his wife. Even after 55 years of marriage, he still referred to Grandma as his young bride, and he’d ask at any chance he got, “Isn’t my Katie a beauty?” He and my Grandma would bicker about limburger cheese or the details of a story or a number of other things, and these arguments would end with “Christ, Kate!” and “Jesus, Gene!” and all of us in tears from laughing so hard. Underneath their silly disagreements, they shared a love so deep that it was intimidating. I often hoped and prayed that I would be able to find what they had, but I worried that it might be impossible to find.

My grandpa had the all the answers, though, and he addressed this concern easily. Each year when I started back to school, he’d ask me, “Do you have any Eugenes in your class? We just need to find you a nice little Eugene.” I never did find his namesake, but I was elated when he and my grandma approved of Tom. Dancing with my grandpa at our wedding was one of the most special moments of my entire life. As “What a Wonderful World” played, he twirled me around as much as his arthritis would allow, and we shared some happy, watery eyes. Don’t tell him that I told you that, though, because he liked to keep up his no nonsense image.

The older my grandpa got, the blunter he got. He had put in many years as a nice guy, and he was entitled to a little fun and to say whatever he wanted to whenever he wanted to. “Well I’m not sure how my meal tastes yet. You just gave it to me. How could I have tried it?” He couldn’t fool me, however, because a heart as big as his is impossible to hide away. I remember attending a hockey game once in Detroit with my parents and grandparents. Before the game, we stopped in Greektown for a baklava fix. On the way out of the bakery, a homeless man approached us begging for money. Grandpa scowled at him while discreetly handing him a twenty. He didn’t think anyone noticed, but this gesture did not go unnoticed.

None of it was lost on me, and I sure do hope that I told him that enough. I loved every single thing about Grandpa. I loved that he always told me what a nice hairline I had, even though I wasn’t sure for many years what that meant. I loved that he’d allow us a glimpse into his private moments every year at Midnight Mass. He’d sing Polish Christmas carols, and I knew that he was talking to God and to his relatives. We’ll still share that every year. I loved that every summer when all of the grandkids camped in his backyard, he’d stand at the window and howl- even when it scared us enough to come inside… and even years beyond the point when we believed it. I loved that my grandpa always had a great story for everything. One story I remember hearing over and over again involved him standing patiently in an elevator waiting for the operator to come in and press the button for him. After quite some time, another man joined him and pressed the button, and my grandpa was initiated into the world of technology. I loved that my grandpa could add more than twenty double-digit numbers in his head and come up with the right answer. I loved that he earned his MBA at Michigan, starting a whole line of super fans and alums. We still sit in his football seats every fall. We’ll still share that with him too. I loved that he’d fry us up some buttery ham sandwiches every time we had a half day off from school. I loved that he was never too embarrassed to break into song (“Someone keeps callllllling my name…”) or dance or laughter. I loved that he loved show tunes and used them to introduce us to a whole new world. I’ll always think of him as younger than springtime. I loved that he and my grandma picked up and moved their lives to be closer to all of their grandkids. We always knew that we were a priority. I loved the way he smiled. He and my grandma took us all to New Orleans one spring when I was little, and I have a perfect mental picture of him on the train ride down. Everyone else had fallen asleep, but I was still up coloring. I tapped him awake to show him the beautiful picture that I had colored (very badly, I’m sure). He wasn’t mad that I woke him up. In fact, he praised my picture up and down and gave me the kind of smile that made me feel like I was the most special little girl on earth. I loved how he would take us to the horse races and give us money to bet, even though I picked horses based on which one I thought was prettiest and even though he knew I’d never win. I loved that he couldn’t eat a meal without getting something on his shirt. We’ll still share that too. Most of all, I loved the way he loved us with his whole heart and soul. He’d take a moment each Christmas to tell us all how much he adored us and how lucky he was. We are the lucky ones, Grandpa. The loss we feel now is only a reflection of the immense joy that you brought to our lives. We are so incredibly blessed to feel so deeply and to love so strongly.

When I talked to my grandpa on the phone yesterday, we made plans to have dinner next weekend. Well, Grandpa, I guess we’ll have to take a rain check on that one. Until then, I’m sure you will enjoy a few Manhattans up there (with at least three cherries, of course) and have a good chat with Bo Schembechler about how to turn our boys around this fall. I thank God so much for letting us end our last conversation yesterday the same way we always did.

I love you, Grandpa.

I love you too, Jessi.

Thank you, Grandpa, you have made so many of my days.


Ash said…
:-( I'm so sorry Jess.. You will definitely be in my thoughts. Let us know if you need anything
Marlene said…
So sorry to hear about your Grandfather Jess. You wrote a incredible tribute to him. Lots of love in your words. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Love you

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