Papa Bear

In my life I’ve had 3 grandfathers.  Some find that strange… I think I was blessed.

My grandpa Ron was my mom’s dad. He lived in San Diego, CA and died when I was in 2nd grade. I don’t remember much about him except that he liked his food extra peppery and that he could fix your shoes. I know that my mom, for all the dysfunction in their family, loved her dad very much. And I also know that he loved her very much. When he died I didn’t really understand what death meant but I knew that it meant pain.

Then there was my grandpa Cecil. He was my mom’s stepfather and he lived in Yakima, WA where I grew up. He passed away when I was in 7th grade but I remember a lot about my grandpa Cecil. He was a sweet old man, who loved the Lord and who slept a lot. Often when you came over to my grandparents house you would find him asleep in his arm chair. He had a lot of health problems but that didn’t make him cross but instead I think it pulled Him closer into relationship with the Lord. My grandma was Catholic and my grandpa was protestant. I still to this day don’t understand how they did it but you wouldn’t find two people more devoted to their own relationship with the Lord in different ways. I often wonder what my grandpa Cecil would say about me going to bible college and moving to New Hampshire to be a pastor. I like to think that he would smile, give me a hug and play cards with me.  I treasure the memories that I have and the things that he taught me. Whenever I shuffle I think of my grandpa Cecil because he spent HOURS one day teaching me to not just shuffle but to shuffle with a bridge.  It was his tangible expression of his love.  When my grandpa Cecil died I had JUST given my life to the Lord. And when I say just I mean literally the month before. I didn’t understand the concept of death. All I knew was that my grandpa, whom I loved, was no longer there. And that hurt. At his funeral I was a mess, first because well my grandpa was dead and secondly because his body in the casket wasn’t him.  The him that I knew had disappeared and I thought I was going to break from the grief.

And last but not least there was my Papa, Tom. He was my dad’s dad and he is the most dear to my heart. Now hear me out for a second because I don’t want anyone getting offended, I think that he is the most dear to my heart because I was able to get to know my papa not just as another grandpa but as a friend. I was 19 when my papa passed away and it’s interesting to look back and watch how grief played itself out.  Where as with my grandpa Cecil i wanted to be anywhere BUT his funeral, I wouldn’t have been anywhere but AT my papa’s funeral.  It was important to me to be a part of the funeral for my papa, to do something there to show my love in a tangible way.

My papa, along with my dad, taught me to play golf. I sometimes wonder if that is why I stuck out the two years of sucking, because two of my favorite men had taught me to play. It was special to me that the three of us would go out together. No one else. It was my time to be spoiled by them. My top love language is quality time and there is no time more quality and focused than the time spent golfing with someone.

Not only did my papa teach me the sport that I loved but he was also a book lover like me. I don’t remember when it started but at some point he noticed my love of reading and as he began to suggest different books and authors that he loved a new dimension to our relationship began. He introduced me to the author Lloyd C. Douglas and the book The Robe. If you’ve never read it, stop right now and go find it, you will not be let down! Reading was our special bond. We never really talked about the books but I just knew that he understood me perfectly.

My papa. He just got me and I miss that. I also miss how beautiful I felt in the gaze of my papa. That may sound strange but it was true. At a time in my life where I often felt awkward and unlovely my papa never made me feel that way. Quite the opposite he often made me feel like the prettiest girl in the world.  You wonder why?  Because he was notorious for asking me, “So Kaitlin, are those California boys blind or something?” He asked me that the very last time I saw him, days before he passed away. It was like he had waited for me to come home and ask me that before he could go. And I needed that. I needed to see him, hug him, kiss him on the top of his head and chuckle at the question. And my response was always, “I guess they are papa.” I chuckle today as I think what he must think, sitting up in heaven, “So Kaitlin, the boys in California AND New Hampshire are blind now are they?”  Yes Papa, I guess they are.

In my life I have been blessed three times with loving grandpas. And it is always in the fall as the leaves change color and the air changes temperature that I’m reminded intensely of their love. The joy that they brought to my life and the lessons that I carry around with me because of them. Whenever I shuffle cards, play golf or read a book I’m reliving a memory and cherishing a moment long since forgotten.

Losing a loved one is hard. Loosing three in one role seems nearly impossible. But when you have lost someone you can’t hold onto what you no longer have but you have to remember what you had for the moment when you might have never had it to begin with.

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