My grandfather is being buried as I write these words, and I’m 9000 miles away, thinking about him and missing my family so very much.
I spoke with my mom briefly before she headed out to the funeral home, and she told me that my grandmother, my Nana, wasn’t going to the funeral. She is 90 years old, and sitting, at the moment, at a rehab facility after breaking her ankle 10 days ago. It hasn’t been an easy few weeks.
And I realized that there was, at least, something that I could do to be part of the family, if in some small way.
And so, at exactly 10:00 this morning, I called my Nana at her rehab facility and I kept her on the phone for as long as she would talk. We talked about Papa, and I asked her about how the two of them met. We joked about how they belong in the World Record Books for enjoying 70 years of marriage.
And we laughed.
And I cried.
And as we sat on the phone chatting, I felt a little better. Here were the two funeral outcasts reminiscing together and doing the best we could under the circumstances.
And then she was ready to hang up.
And I didn’t want her to go.
And I told her how very much I love her, and how much I loved Papa.
And she said that she loved me too.
And then she went back to her 70 years of memories of a life lived for each other that is now available only in the past.
Here is the eulogy that my brother is saying for me, today, at my Papa’s funeral. May his memory be for a blessing always.
He called me Princess every time that I spoke to him for 40 years. “Hi Princess!” he’d say as I answered the phone. “How’s my Princess doing?”
The nickname was, of course, with good reason. As the only granddaughter, I was definitely the Princess in his life. And I loved having that title and that role.
After an amazing, rich career with NASA, Papa “retired” to a life working in a bank. Leave it to Papa to retire by taking on another full time job.
As a child, I had no idea what he did there, but I knew that it involved candy. My best memories of him were when my mom would take Gary and me out to lunch with Papa.
We’d run to his office building and go up to the floor with all of the windows. Then, we’d hide from Papa, giggling as we ducked behind chairs trying to be secretive and surprise him at his desk. His colleagues loved seeing us and Papa loved to show off his grandkids.
And then the best part would arrive. Leaving the building to go out for bagels, we’d stop at the candy counter on the bottom floor of the building. I don’t remember who started the tradition, but the deal was that we could each take as much candy as we could grab in the seconds that corresponded to our ages. When I was six, I had six seconds to get my candy.
If you’ve heard the expression “the kid in the candy store,” this must be where it came from! It was so much fun to race against the time, trying to grab as much candy as I could. I can’t recall if we got to keep all of the candy each time, or if we had to put most of it back. The candy-eating wasn’t as much the objective as was the race, and the fun that we had with Papa.
My other favorite memory of Papa was his role as the door greeter. When we buzzed into the building, we always knew that when we got to their hallway, Papa would be standing there at the open door with a smile. We wondered, at times, if Papa would manage to be there at the door even if we had sneaked into the building unannounced – probably so.
And so, as we say goodbye to Papa today, I will forever think of him standing at the door of his apartment waving goodbye and saying “Bye Princess! I’ll always love you.”
You too, Papa. You too.