So much has happened since we had to let you go four years ago, so today, on what would be your 70th birthday, I want to take a moment to catch you up a bit.
My family is doing just great, although we all struggled that first year after saying goodbye — my younger son in particular. Remember when you called me from the airport one year after a cross-country flight when they showed “The Incredibles” on the plane? You had to call immediately upon landing to giggle with me about how much your second grandson reminded you of the character Dash. You were spot-on. He still goes non-stop, at age 14 and just about to be a freshman in high school. Dad, he keeps me running! That kid is involved in everything! Two bands at school, football, soccer, baseball, friends! I can barely keep up. When I was still a fairly new mom, I read a line that stuck with me concerning overscheduled kids: “parents sometimes have to rescue kids from their own enthusiasm.” I must have known then that this would especially apply to this enthusiastic young man. But, it’s not just that he’s busy. I’m so proud to tell you that he thrives in all he does, just like his Grampa did. And you never realized this, but he spent the entire first week after you died (remember he was in 4th grade then?) scouring the internet and keeping a notebook on ways to cure cancer. It didn’t make any sense to him that the doctors couldn’t fix you, especially given the fact that we all loved you so much and desperately wanted you here. So he took matters into his own hands in the hopes of saving someone else, maybe even someone’s grampa. It seemed to help him through his grief, which was very raw.
Your first-born grandson, my oldest… you won’t believe when I tell you that he’s going on 17 years old, is a junior in high school, and has his driver’s license! I can’t believe it myself! I struggle with such conflicting emotions: worry over having my baby driving himself around in the world, and extreme relief of having him drive himself around in the world! (my driving routine has been really hectic for the past five years with three kids in three different schools, all of them 20-30 minutes away from the house.) This young man loves to golf (remember you were with him when he golfed his first round at three years old!) and works very hard in school. He makes me proud every day. He’s just a super great kid in all that he does. Mostly, he’s kind. And sweet. And he still laughs at my jokes. 🙂 He does everything with heart and character. Every day, I feel that he’s one day closer to going off to college, and I know I won’t be ready to give him up in two short years. Our time together feels like grains of sand slipping through my hands. I try to savor every single moment with him.
Then there’s your first granddaughter. We call her “la principessa”, which means the princess in Italian. (In what I call “positively-channeled grief”, I have been learning Italian for the past three years! — makes me feel so connected to you and our Italian roots). She was just a little one when you saw her last, but now she is seven years old and excited for second grade to start. There’s so much to catch you up on with her. You always laughed about how she was a mini-me, even though she was just a toddler when you knew her, and you’ll be pleased to know that hasn’t changed. She loves school, loves to read, loves to travel. She’s much more gregarious and social than me, and she is incessantly happy (takes after her father on that one!) We all ADORE her. She brings so much joy and light to our family. We’re so grateful that there was another baby waiting for our family, even with the big age gap between her and the boys. She still talks about you often, Dad. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time. “Sometimes,” she told me recently in her innocent little voice, “I pretend Grampa is my imaginary friend.”
Finally, me. I’ll be honest, letting you go was the hardest thing I ever had to do. Nobody gives up an adoring father and textbook grandfather without a fight. My grief was devastating. My family was very patient with me. My emotions were all mixed up for years. Events that were supposed to be happy, like school graduations, sports victories, and especially holidays, suddenly became sad and empty. I cried a lot. I reached for the phone often to call you and tell you something about my day that I knew you’d want to hear. I would dream that you were just on a business trip, and finally, in the dream, to all our great relief, you would turn up at home. “There you are!” I would say to you in my dream. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
There’s so much more to tell you, so much happens in the course of four years. I skipped so much, but today, on your birthday, I wanted to give to you this gift. The gift of knowing that we’re all doing well. That we’re happy and thriving. That we love you. Even though we miss you every day.