Dear Pop Pop,
It has been a long year without you. We would never be ready to say goodbye, but your absence has been painfully evident this year. I meant to write this post sooner. Regardless, here are a couple of things I want you to know.
I love that you always said “Yes!” when I asked if you wanted ice cream in those plaster mugs at the cabin. I love that the Yankees were often on in the background. I love that you laughed in a characteristic way. I love that you made every one of your twenty-two grandchildren feel special. I love that you were present. I love that I have that picture of you & Grandma Bunny standing next to Mickey & Minnie. I love that my apartment in New York isn’t too far from the spot where you grew up as a kid. I love that I think of you whenever I pass the rose stand in Penn Station.
I love that you loved Christmas.
I love that you hung those red stockings on the mantle every year as our family continued to grow. I love that you carefully packaged & marked the Christmas decorations. I love that you sat at the head of table for dinner with Grandma Bunny next to you. I love that you made us appreciate “A Christmas Carol” & the profound lessons that accompany this simple story. I love that you were buried in your red Christmas tie – forever our Jolly Old Elf.
I think your love of Christmas is a true testament to the man you were. You believed in celebrating moments. You believed in the importance of generosity. You believed in creating magic for others.
I could fill a small book with my gratitude for your presence in my life, but here are a few aspects I want to emphasize.
Thank you for giving us the lake – a place where we learned to swim, where we learned to appreciate natural beauty, and, most of all, where we learned how goddamn lucky we are to have grown up surrounded by people who love us – both our extended family & our lake family.
Thank you for teaching us that is the right thing to do the right thing not with words but with actions. I am certain that there are many examples of your goodness that I will never know because you did them quietly, without seeking praise or recognition.
Thank you for coming to my middle school, high school, & college graduations. I am grateful that you heard me speak at Boston College Commencement, so I could publicly thank you in front of thousands of people. It was an honor to describe the manner in which you exemplified a strong work ethic to your children & your grandchildren. Also, I am sorry that you had to walk around in ninety-degree heat that day. To your credit, you never complained.
Thank you for being a true gentleman, as my mom always called you.
Thank you for treating my dad like one of your own sons.
I felt inclined to share this post – not just in a vain hope that somehow these words can reach you above. I want the world to know about the full life you lived & how lucky we were to be a part of it.
It has been a long year & a hard year, but your family is telling your story. They are showing up for each other. They are driving great distances to be present for a few hours. They are sending flowers. They are giving extra hugs. They are calling to check in. They are holding each other in tough moments. They are seeking happiness whenever possible. They are making extra plans to visit each other. They are reminding each other to get out of bed, get dressed, & kick ass. They are celebrating graduations, birthdays, championships, proms, travels, scholarships, college acceptances, internships, full-time jobs & Shining Stars performances with extra zeal. They are rooting for each other.
Finally, Pop Pop, I hope you know how proud we are to be the direct result of two people that fell in love.
The love you & Grandma Bunny infused within my immediate family & our extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins is one of the most profound blessings of my life. It was not something I had to earn or work for or prove myself to be worthy of. By virtue of being your grandchild, I was gifted with genuine kindness, unconditional love, & constant support from both you.
I have had this thought over & over the last year for different reasons – love & loss are two sides of the same coin that is our family. Our loyal & deep love for one another increases our joy in celebrations – graduations, marriages, achievements, & gatherings in every season for any reason, including but not limited to holidays, cousin outings, and/or dinners.
It also enhances the pain of losing those we have been taught to care for & fight for no matter what. We are not a perfect family, but at our core, we have always been a loving family. Losing even one person of this beautifully complex unit cuts deeply into our hearts.
We will try to honor your memory by continuing to fiercely love each other, as we know you would.
Take care of those who, like you, should still be here with us.
We cherish your memory, we honor your legacy, & we miss you always.
PS… I love you.