Updated: May 12
As I was going through older pieces of writing over the past few years, I stumbled upon a letter that I read at my Pop Pop's wake in May of 2013. I find myself thinking of him often lately, so I wanted to share my account of living with him and getting to know him not only as my grandfather, but as a wonderful man. I hope you enjoy.
How to begin writing about a man of ninety years? How to reflect on the fortunate account of a hurricane forcing one out of their home and into the home of another? When I look back at my relationship with Pop Pop, I feel it really begins there - when I moved my belongings into the room next to his on a late night in November.
I have to admit, when we first arrived at Pop Pop’s house, I was a little depressed. The last place in the world that I wanted to be was in the tiny, dusty room displaying Pop Pop’s handwritten notes: "Only 4 farts allowed per guest.” I also never imagined sleeping just below the attic that housed “the ghost of Miss. Duffy.” I couldn’t see the bright side to anything at the time; I simply wanted to be back in my own home again.
As time went on, I began to realize that my staying there was like looking through a window at the life of a man who had lived alone for the past seven years. I saw a man who up until that point was just the over-talkative, passive listener I spoke briefly to at family parties. My mother’s father who came over once a week for dinner to recount war stories told hundreds of times over, and to stay standing at the front door saying goodbye for a half hour. If there's one thing that I’m most grateful for from Hurricane Sandy, it would be that I got to know my grandfather in a way I never would have if it weren’t for the storm.
My favorite moments with him were often in the early mornings and late nights; to say I had a perpetual soundtrack to my day-to-day routine would be understatement. I woke up to the lyrics, “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes,” vibrated loudly through the thin wall that separated my room from his. Then there were mornings where he would recite poetry memorized over the years - all very loud and resonant for 7am. The funniest part of this was that he did this immediately upon waking before deciding to get up for the day. He was a musical man, singing to his own tune and skipping to his own beat, as we all knew him to be.
Nights at Pop Pop’s were equally entertaining. Before going to sleep, I would hear the low sounds of profanities being grumbled through the crack in his bedroom door. I was always curious what could possibly be going on that was getting him so upset at ten o’clock at night. Nonetheless, I loved hearing his rantings; it always put a smile on my face to know that there was actually someone there to hear it.
A night I'll always remember is when I heard Pop Pop talking to grandma. His door was slightly open and as I looked in, I saw him kneeling down, holding a photo of her saying, I miss you so much Doris, and I love you. When I look back at that moment now, it doesn’t break my heart as much because I know he no longer misses her.
My stay at Pop Pop’s was like stepping into a portal and traveling back in time. From the Frank Sinatra station playing in the kitchen, to the re-runs of old westerns and black and white films on his TV throughout the day, Pop Pop stood as a connection to the past - to a sweeter, simpler time.
Immediately after the hurricane, I could speak for my parents and myself that we did not see any silver lining attached to losing our home. I couldn't disagree with that more now. I think it may actually be one of the most beautiful events to occur in my life, because it led me to learn about my Pop Pop not only as a grandfather, but as a human being.
I learned a lot about myself too: my levels of patience and the importance of taking in life with a breath of fresh air; how important it is to appreciate any given moment because you never know when that moment will be gone; and to always look at any circumstance life offers you as a gift - an unexpected teacher arriving at just the perfect time.
Pop Pop, I hope you know how much those six months together meant to me. How I wish I could have one more chat with you in the breakfast nook; to listen to you just a little more closely. Your time here is complete though and you traveled back home into the arms of your loving wife, whose been waiting for you for some time now.
Dance the eternal dance, sing the continuous song and love with the infinite, boundless nature of your soul, for the celebration of your arrival home.