Today my grandpa, Papa, as I called him, would have been 87 years old. Though he passed away over ten years ago, I still celebrate my grandfather's life and all my wonderful memories of him on February 15th every year.
Those of you out there who have loved deeply and lost greatly like I have know that those people who make such a mark on your life never leave you. Religious, spiritual or not, they're there deep down inside you, continually shaping your life as you go on without them.
Today I'll celebrate my Papa by taking an extra long walk because he loved to walk with me, smile at any passerby and occasionally catch a stranger in conversation simply because he thought they'd want to chat a bit - even if they didn't.
I'll eat a roll with butter as I sip my morning coffee ignoring my oath to avoid carbs on weekdays because that was his chosen breakfast on the many days we walked to the coffee shop near his house.
My first word was "hello" - no doubt thanks to the experiences I had as a little tiny baby with Papa, walking down the street greeting whoever walked by with the friendly gesture. Today, I'll smile and say "hello" to more people, because that's what he taught me to do.
Papa loved watching old movies - I saw all the classics with him first. Judy Garland was a favorite, so were Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. After he died I couldn't watch a Lou Costello movie for years because the actor himself reminded me so much of my grandfather. Now, I can't get enough of them and so, I'll go home tonight, eat dinner and watch my favorite one, In the Navy, because it reminds me so much of him.
Though it drove Nana crazy, Papa would sneak Oreo cookies whenever he could get his paws on them. He had heart trouble and Nana was very strict with monitoring his diet, but those nights I slept over on the living room pull out couch I'd always hear him tip-toe into the kitchen, the microwave light guiding him, to the cabinet Nana thought he didn't know about, and pull out the cookie box.
"Papa," I'd whisper, "Nana says you can't eat that."
"Would you like one?" Papa would reply, holding out the row of scrumptious cookies.
And he'd smile, I'd smile, and we'd eat a cookie each, thinking it our little secret. Nana would, of course, come out the next morning to see the crumbs we'd left behind.
So tonight I think I'll enjoy some Oreos, too.
Papa was a big part of my life for what now seems like such a short time, but I count my blessings for having him as much as I did.
Loving and generous beyond belief, loyal and reliable, funny and honest, there are few men I think so wonderful.
He taught me so much, instilled so much of what's good in me and I'll treasure that forever. That's why I do my best every year to remember those memories I cherish - to keep him alive, keep him with me and pass on all he taught me to my own children.
Happy Birthday to the best grandfather a girl could ever have!
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