I talked to my grandfather the day before he died. I’m so thankful that I followed through with the urge to give him a call. I’ll forever be replaying that conversation and our final “I love you” before we both hung up the phone.
Even though we knew with his failing health, that the day would be soon, hearing he was gone still felt like a punch to the gut. I’d never lost a grandparent which made the reality all the more somber.
I never knew him as Grandpa. A friend of the family actually gave him his nickname. Papa John.
When we moved to SC from our home in western NY, we saw a lot of Papa John’s pizza joints. I wasn’t used to seeing them, so every time we drove by one, I thought of my own Papa John.
Papa John had a strong emphasis on family and that shines through in all my memories of him. He’d buy plenty of minutes so that he could call me and my brother every Sunday. Early birthday and Christmases, my cousin and I would get matching clothes and toys to make us feel like sisters. He’d be the first to throw us in the pool and call us a “Candy” if we complained about it being too cold.
Family can be messy, but he did his absolute best to keep us all together even when we were states away.
He bought a bunch of my books and shared them with everyone at his church. I’ve always appreciated how much he supported my ambitions.
I write to process things. So of course, I took to my journal the day he died.
“I’m selfishly upset that he will never read my future books, meet my future husband, and hold my future children. When I describe him, I will say that he was full of humor, opinions, and a strong desire to keep our families connected. He was a carpenter, a musician, a companion, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a Christian. When you talked to him, you would find yourself in a conversation about end times, the Buffalo Bills, and Dot’s Sunday spaghetti.”
He wasn’t perfect. In fact, the family we have today is made possible through forgiveness, steadfastness, and all around effort.
Make that call, forgive that person, send that invitation, because you never know when it will be the last chance you can.
I miss him already, but I will take away his zeal, his humor, and his desire for truth, and carry it with me always.
I love you, Papa John.