Growing up there were certain things that we could always count on when it came to Grandpa. Every Christmas we would all get a card and a $5 gift certificate to McDonalds. For our birthdays, we knew we would be getting a bag of tootsie pops in a Publix bag. Although it was small, we always looked forward to his gifts. This tradition continued even as we married and added spouses and our own children to the mix. Each spouse and great grandkid could expect to get their McDonald's gift certificates from grandpa each holiday and birthday. He was consistent in other ways as well. When I was in high school I could always expect to see grandpa in the southwest corner of all my soccer games. I can still picture it now, he’d be standing with the same group of men each game cheering me on. After the game, win or lose, the first person to be waiting for me on the other side was grandpa. First would be a big sweaty hug, then we’d analyze the game. Even when I was in college, playing at Cedarville, he made sure to make the trip each year to see me play even as his health began to decline. One such instance involved a game in 40 degree weather with pelting rain. He didn’t care. While everyone else was in there cars or gone, grandpa put on his windbreaker and stood out and watched me. His consistent support of his grandkids in everything they did was something that we all took for granted at times but was a cornerstone for our family.
He loved his grandchildren immensely. At family gatherings he wouldn't talk a lot, but he would sit back and observe his family with love. He never had a harsh word for us, even when I'm sure it was overwhelming to have so many kids running around. The one thing he did always have for us was a big hug for each of us. So big in fact that it wasn't unusual for him to pick you right up off the ground. And those hugs weren’t reserved just for family members, they were extended to girlfriends/boyfriends, friends from college, or anyone that came within a 5 foot proximity of him at church. He had a way of making people who weren’t part of the family ‘yet’ feel special. When I told my buddies from college that grandpa had passed, the main thing they remembered was his big hugs. Those hugs that took your breath away… literally.
Over the last year & a half or so, our family has spent Friday nights at Outback with my parents and grandpa. I'm so thankful for this time that I got to see grandpa each week, along with my children. We would talk about sports and he would always listen to the events of my week, good or bad. He would then relate a lot of what I was going through back to when he was working in the same field. He would give me advice on how to handle situations but would mainly listen. I always knew he was on my side whether I was in the wrong or right. One of my greatest privileges of being his grandson was probably something small to everyone looking from the outside. As grandpa’s health declined, he would have difficulty walking from place to place. I decided to start lending him my shoulder each week after dinner to get him from the table to the car. Although this was a small gesture, I believe we bonded from that short walk each week, many times me bearing a significant amount of weight as we weaved through the maze of tables to get to the front door. It allowed me to feel like I was able to honor him by helping him in a small way, to provide him with support just as he has supported me all these years. He would then always tell me how much he appreciated it and we’d hug before leaving the restaurant.
As with his grandchildren, I know his great-grandchildren brought him so much joy, as well. I remember when I introduced both my children to him; He teared up the first time he got to hold them. Emma and Jackson always loved being able to see Big Papa, whom she affectionately named for obvious reasons, each week. When Emma would see big papa, her eyes would light up and she would run up to give him a hug.. Many times, she would have in depth conversations with Big Papa, most of which made no sense, but he didn’t care he just enjoyed each moment with her. He had a way of making my children feel special. I think this was because when he got the opportunity, he always paid attention to them.
The last time that we got to see grandpa was last Friday night at Chili’s. Two things happened at dinner that night that I will never forget. The first was Jackson was being very wiggly last Friday and did not want to sit still. Dad finally took him and sat next to grandpa with him. I was sitting across from him at the end of the table as we normally do, and I remember watching as grandpa started playing patticake with Jax. I was thankful, number one, that grandpa got Jax to sit still so everyone could eat, but also, I remember thinking that I was glad that grandpa was able to have some time with Jax. The second thing that happened that night was there was a balloon man that came around. Whenever Emma sees a balloon man, she pleads with us to get one. Usually dad will end up getting her one, but last Friday, grandpa pulled out a few bucks and got Emma a pink balloon rabbit. I am so glad now, that I didn’t make him put back his money. I am so thankful that he got to buy this little balloon for my daughter last week. I am so thankful that I got to watch him look at her with a sparkle in his eye as she played with the balloon that he bought for her.
Grandpa, I think the greatest thing that you left us with was family. You followed Proverbs 22:6 and raised up your children in the way they should go and now that they’re old… ok older, they have not departed from it. You left you’re 15 grandkids and two grandkids still hear on this earth with 4 parents who are great examples to us of how to live for Christ. You left a big legacy for us all, not many can say that their entire family is committed to loving and serving Jesus.
I like to think that right now, you’re reconciled with grandma, and Johnny and Dani are at your side and you are truly, truly happy. We’re gonna miss you big papa, but so glad to know that all your burdens, pains, and sorrows are taken away.
We love you.