Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, Grandpa! (my letter to you)

Dear Grandpa,

I want to take the time out to wish you a Happy Birthday!  If you were still alive, you’d be 94 years young.  I would tell people you still don’t look a day over 60.  

You never had any skin blemishes.  Plus, your hair never got fully white; you stayed in that salt and pepper stage all up until the time you passed away.  You also never got majorly sick, until you got diagnosed with cancer, and even then, you put up a heck of a fight.  The toughest part was seeing that you had lost so much weight and when you slouched.  You were always one to walk tall.

I don’t want to talk about the bad times.  This is a time of celebration.  Let’s talk about the good times, the times that make us both smile.

When I was little, I think your favorite baby food to get me was pears.  Maybe it was because you liked them so much.  

I never was quite sure.  I guess that does explain why I didn't want to eat pears as much as I got older.  Guess you can call it pear overkill. 

I also think about the moments when you would get ready to go somewhere.  You always washed your face with Noxzema.  However, there would be a few times when you’d miss a couple of spots, and I’d try to catch you before you walked out the door.  The same when you would use Barbasol, your favorite shaving cream. 

When you were going somewhere, whether it was to a neighbor’s house, post office, or getting some groceries from home, you always looked sharp.  You wouldn't go anywhere without one of your caps.  You would reserve the hats for more special occasions.  Slacks, never jeans.  Nice comfortable dressy shoes, no flip flops or sneakers.  You were always a big fan of Stacy Adams.

I’m not sure whether it was just coincidence or if you really liked white Ford Cars.  I know you enjoyed driving, and I enjoyed riding with you.  I felt like it was the time we really got a chance to bond.  

Sometimes, we talked a lot.  Other times, we’d just ride, enjoying the music or if it was a long trip, enjoying the scenery.  

It’s too bad neither one of the cars—the 1977 Ford LTD or the 1990 Crown Victoria had a CD player.  However, we still managed to find some good music to listen to.  

The funniest moment was when we were talking and you said, “They gone make me lose my mind up in here.”  I’m like, “Grandpa, what do you know about DMX?”  We both started chuckling.

You were always a picky eater.  You didn't eat a lot of folks’ cooking.  You trusted cooking from your parents, from Grandma, from your children, and from me.  

Other people, well, you were a bit skeptical.  

Like, you wouldn't refuse the food if it was dropped off.  You would smile, and you would thank them.

However, once they were gone, you would ask if Grandma or I wanted any of it.  Grandma, who wasn't nearly as picky as he, would give it a try.  I would only try it if Grandma liked it.

There was one case (and I still laugh about it to this day) where we were all getting together for the 4th of July.  Everyone knows you don’t like eating BBQ Chicken, but you were always a fan of baked beans.

My uncle’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend (it was a confusing time back then) volunteered to bring some baked beans.  I had already planned on making my baked beans, but mine was going to take a little bit, since the oven was already occupied. 

So once the baked beans arrived, Grandpa looked at it funny.  He’s like, “What is this in the baked beans?”  Now, he’s used to vegetables (like onions and green peppers) being in it, but he saw something crumbly in it that he wasn't quite familiar with. 

I said, “Grandpa, it looks like ground beef.”

He looked even more puzzled.  In our family, we don’t mix ground beef with our beans.  We may put some bacon strips on top of the beans before we bake them in the oven, but we don’t have our beans with meat in it.

Grandpa’s like, “I’m going to look at some more TV.  Let me know when your beans are ready.”

“All right, Grandpa.”

My uncle, however, was feeling a bit impatient.  He took a bite of his girl/ex-girl’s baked beans, and the face he made…I wish I could have caught it on camera!  My uncle didn't want to be rude and throw the beans out, but he did set the dish aside.

A few minutes later, “Yo, head? (Head was his nickname for me) Let me know when your beans get ready.”

Grandma and I looked at each other, then just burst out laughing.  My beans were a hit.  The beans with meat; well, not so much!

Grandpa, you didn't say a whole lot, but you let your actions speak continuously.  I know you were always there for me, no matter what.  You were my biggest advocate and my fiercest protector.  You wouldn't let anyone, even members within the family, act all types of disrespectful towards me.  Once your voice was heard, they backed down. 

I love you so much for standing up for truth, for not promoting any type of lies, even when the lies were perpetuated by members of our own family.  When other family members threw jealousy towards me, you continued to encourage me in all of my efforts.  You continued to have faith in me, even during those times when things got very dark for me. 

I only wish I had more pictures of you.  I know you really didn't like to take them.  Sure, family members took lots of pictures of you when you started becoming sick.  I just don’t want to remember you in that way; those pictures are hard for me to look at.  I think that is why I have become more focused on taking pictures, being able to capture everything.  You never know when you may not be able to anymore.

I know that you are entertaining angels in Heaven right now, but I’m still missing you—here on Earth.  The pain never goes away; it just becomes more bearable.  I know you wouldn't want me to be sad but to keep smiling. 

That is what I’m doing—remembering you, my eyes slightly shining with tears but smiling, thankful for all the good times we had.

Love you always.

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