I never called him grandfather actually. I called him Pop Pop. Come to think of it I have no idea how that particular appellation got attached to him, but that was the name that I always called him.
He died in his sleep at the age of 103, after a full, fruitful life. So I'm sad, but I mainly want to celebrate his life here. There's a lot to celebrate.
My memory is always a scattered sort of place, so I can't really construct a narrative of my experiences with Pop Pop. My dad and my aunts and uncle have spent some time collecting Pop Pop's story. But my memories are of particular things. Things like the various contraptions that Pop Pop would design to try to keep squirrels off of the bird feeders, back at the house in University Park. Things like the marimba in the upstairs room, though I don't know if I remember him playing it--I found out just the other day that Pop Pop played piano, when he played some for us at his 103rd birthday party. Things like Pop Pop playing golf, up until his 101st birthday, and how I saw him sink a long putt on Father's Day in his late 90's.
I remember Pop Pop sunbathing, in various places over various years. I remember a ukulele, and whistling. Whistling is probably my earliest memory of Pop Pop. I remember the kite he was making in his retirement community room, as if he were going to fly away. I remember him beating me at shuffleboard.
Each year at the family reunion, we had a book that people could write in to keep a joint account of our time together as a family. Pop Pop's children would encourage him to write in the book, and when he did, he always wrote that he missed his wife, my grandmother, Ellen. We called her Grams.
On Pop Pop's 100th birthday, the family threw him a big party, with my cousin as DJ. Pop Pop convinced multiple people to get him food. And he danced with my mom and my aunts.
There are plenty more stories that my family can tell. Maybe some of them will be shared here. Awhile ago I wrote about the lawnmower that Pop Pop passed down. And my family can tell you all about how Pop Pop and Grams met. And about Pop Pop training pilots during WWII. There's lots to tell.
But I guess what I'll end with is a comment that my dad made just the other day, at Pop Pop's 103rd birthday party. "He really keeps a good attitude about it all, which is really saying something at this age," my dad said. I think my dad and I probably have a particular reason to notice good attitudes about the world. Ours are a bit marred, both by mental illness and by an inbuilt sarcasm. But Pop Pop, in the midst of all the aging aches and pains, saw the world as a good place. You could see it in the way he looked at his great grandchildren as they played around him. Or in the contented way that he took naps in the sun. In the way he danced, and just generally kept plugging away. His is quite a life to celebrate, and he knew it. May the same be said of all of us.
(Pop Pop dancing with my mom on his 100th)
(Pop Pop with two of my little cousins)