I wrote the following for my dad on his birthday a few years ago.
I didn’t know my grandfather well, so I don’t have many stories to describe him. But I do have words, feelings, and memories. I remember his warm laughter, echoing throughout whatever home he was in. And when you heard his laugh, you knew that he was smiling. Even now I can picture is smile, broad and welcoming, eager to appear, waiting for someone to tell a joke.
I remember sitting on his knee. He smelled like a grandfather should, like peppermint and coffee. He would hold me there while we sat in the kitchen, all the other adults talking about things that I thought were boring. He would keep me entertained by whispering funny jokes in my ear. I felt safe and loved. I felt like I was the only grandchild in the world, even though he had several.
I remember all of his toys. The house was full of them. The railroad set that took up a whole corner of the basement. The pinball machine from the sixties that actually worked, and didn’t cost a thing to play. The Pepsi machine in the garage that didn’t work, but I thought was neat anyway. The clocks that populated every room, ticking the seconds and chiming for the hours.
I remember him visiting us in Texas, and watching him marvel at the beauty of our home in the woods. I watched him take in the beauty of something I took for granted everyday, and hoped that one day I would be like him and appreciate life every second.
I remember him teaching me words in Polish over the phone. We would have conversations in Polish, and I remember most of the words he taught me to this day, more than I ever let anyone know, because it was like a secret language between the two of us and I want to keep it that way.
I remember the way he would hug my dad, and put his arm around him. I couldn’t wait until I was tall enough for my dad to do the same to me. The three of us could stand around and tell jokes and smile. I can picture in my mind a photograph of all three of us, arms on shoulders, smiling, my grandfather’s smile the biggest.
I remember when we lost him, and how hard we all cried. It was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. But I was glad, because then I knew it was okay for me to cry, too. I wished that I had one more time to sit in his lap.
I see him at times when my father smiles. I can still hear him laugh. I am grateful that I knew him, for however short a time it was. And I am grateful that my father is so like his father, because both of them have taught me how to be a better man.