Friday, January 15, 2016
Poppop was orange, due to the liver-cancer jaundice.
It was almost a relief that he was gone--he slipped past his morphined, haldol-ed body and in a moment and was back to his strong, smiling, younger self.
He was tough--an athlete, and stern and critical, as the men in my family are. I was scared of him when I was little--he was the king of the table, presiding over it as my grandma served and I refilled his water. He told us to finish our plate because there were starving children in Africa, and then he gave us a grade on how thoroughly we'd cleaned it. He told us not to run up and down the stairs and not to play too loudly in the attic.
They said he got softer after his heart surgery. Often in his older years, he said he didn't want grandma cooking too much, that she should take it easy. And so they went out for dinner more, even if it was just for the senior special on Wendy's chili. Once they took me to a $4.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. (He always said food is 87 octane: it doesn't much matter what you eat; it just makes you run. Although I don't think that applied to breakfast: Poppop loved his Wheaties.)
He was a far better man than his fallen-star idols, Joe Paterno and Bill Cosby. He liked sports like Joe Paterno--he was disciplined and strong. And Bill Cosby made him laugh: I've been staring all day at a picture of his wry smile. There's something mischievous and teasing about Poppop. He states his (sometimes abrasive) opinions forcefully, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. He knows he's a pill.
I'm just his granddaughter, so there's a lot about his life that I don't know anything about; I realize this looking through old pictures, which make me feel further away from him--he's from an era that's foreign to me. When there are pictures of him as a young man, he only just resembles the grandfather I knew.
The men in my family don't do well with sickness and death. They value their body and fitness and get very confused when it fails them. He valued his work and his athletic exertions (tennis several times a week), and when that was over (for my grandfather, well into his 80's for both), he didn't know what to do.
My grandfather went to mass everyday. You would've thought that would make it easier for him to age. But he wasn't too happy to grow old.
He cared about the spirituality of his family. He and Grandma were pretty happy when my sister and I became Catholic. They came for the Easter vigils where it happened and came back to Easter parties at our apartment till all hours of the night. He made the trip for my son's baptism, even though getting around at that point had become quite difficult. He asked me from time to time if I was still attending mass and if I pray with my husband. He would check up on you in all areas.
He was hard on me--he used to complain that I was taking too long to finish my dissertation (six years, right around average, but he was probably right). But he was also proud of me--he said that he wanted to see me teach, and to see another cousin of mine teach tennis. He liked to see us doing what we are good at, although he didn't have a chance, finally, to see those two things.
Posted by Emily Hale at 12:08 PM