I have been struggling to describe my grandpa--no adjectives do him justice. I hear my teacher voice telling my kids, "SHOW, not TELL" and I wonder, how can I even begin to show you who he was? I think about what I tell my own two kiddoes about their great-grandpa, and I realize I can give you little snapshots of the man. One picture in and of itself may not tell his whole story, but taken together, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the man he was and why I loved him so deeply.
- My grandpa used to laugh until tears pooled in the corners of his eyes, and his round belly would shake.
- He loved to drink Wild Turkey on the rocks--straight--ice cubes clinking as he enjoyed his pre-dinner cocktail.
- He'd order my sister and I "Shirley Temples" when we went out to dinner and always requested paper umbrellas for us.
- He shared stories of how he learned to drink warm beer when he was in northern Africa fighting in World War II.
- He taught me how to divide much easier than my fifth grade teacher did, and he became indignant that she marked up my homework with red pen and the dreaded "SEE ME" at the top of it.
- He called me from an airplane once (long before cell phones)--to tell me he was flying over Denver, my birthplace.
- He stood in line for hours on end to purchase those Cabbage Patch kids my sister and I just had to have.
- He flirted with young waitresses and tipped well, teaching us to always be kind to service people.
- He spoke up when he witnessed people being unkind to others and animals.
- He drove for Meals on Wheels and adopted families at Christmas, as he felt we all played an important role in our community.
- He would pinch my grandma's behind and shout, "WOW-WOW!" to push my sister and I into fits of giggles, and he would hold his breath to stop himself from laughing.
- He taught me how to flip a spoon into a glass of water at Bob Evans, while a whole table of nuns looked on.
- He wore pink polo shirts before they became fashionable and told my younger brother, "Real men wear pink."
- He read two newspapers a day and never missed an episode of M*A*S*H* or the 6 o'clock news.
- Most importantly, he taught me to be the woman I have become by sharing his world and making it clear that all of my hopes and dreams were within reach.
Simply put, my grandfather taught me to find the joy in the moments of your life and focus on what is important. As he lay dying that last week, he pulled me close to him and told me, "Kelli, when you are ready to die, you will never wish you worked more. But, you will wish you could have one more day with your family. Set your priorities and stick to them." He hugged me close, and I drank in his smell--that musky, "old man" scent. I touched his silvery hair and watched those blue eyes of his dance around.
So, tonight, as my heart is a little heavy, I'll look back on all of the memories we shared, and take comfort in the fact that he is watching over me, celebrating that mutual love and respect we shared for each other. I'll take out the Miami University (my alma mater) hat he wore up until that last week, and inhale deeply, smelling a twinge of his aftershave. I will stare deep into those same blue eyes my son has inherited from him and tell him once again why his middle name is Knox. I will have my daughter hug the stuffed white monkey I have from him and share stories of a great man. And, I will take comfort in the fact that I will always be Paul Knox's granddaughter. Nothing, death nor distance, can take that away.