An Open Letter To The Greatest Man In My Life
08 February 2011
I wanted to write and tell you exactly how much you've meant to me over the past 34½ years. You'll be 85 later this year, and while I hate to think about it, that number keeps inching ever closer to a time when I may no longer to be able to tell you how I feel.
Overall, I did not have a happy childhood, between mom dying so terribly young and all the awful times that followed my dad remarrying. However, there were many bright spots during that time, and I can't think of a single one that didn't involve Grandma and yourself. You saved it for me and made the whole thing far more wonderful than it ever could have been without you in my life. And I am grateful.
I remember when you and Grandma would wake up Stacey and me at the crack of dawn for an overnight trip down to Atlantic City. Scruffy would be in the car, too, and while Grandma was playing the slots at Trump's Tower, the three of us would walk the dog up and down the boardwalk and look in the windows at the salt-water taffy and other fun beachy wares. When Scruff didn't come along, you took us to see a show or two. I know we saw A Chorus Line, but I forget what else there was, because the most important thing about it was getting to spend time with you and knowing you were right where you wanted to be, too - with us kids.
I remember all the times you two took us down to the Jersey Shore to stay at Alma's house, whether it was for the Fourth of July or just because it was Summer and the Shore was our place to go. Back then, Stacey and I were free to roam around and walk down the block or two to the beach and get as sunburned and sandy as we wanted to be. Grandma always scolded me to put on sunscreen, but now, all these years later, I am still not doing a great job of listening to her!
I remember when you took us to see the tall ships for your big company picnic. My favorite thing about it was the endless supply of ice cream. Which reminds me, you were always so proud to tell everyone that you were the guy who taught me how to eat it! You and I shared a love of ice cream like no one else, and now, neither one of us is allowed to have it! Tsk, tsk.
I remember the time you drove us into the Bronx - or maybe it was two or three times, I'm not sure - to go to the zoo. One time it was because the pandas were there from China, and they weren't to be missed.
There were lots of little things to remember, too. The way you, Stacey and I always made a special trip to the Butterflake bakery in Englewood after church, for doughnuts. I always loved the way they tied the box with that red and white string. I thought it was special for them then, but now I know that it's a common thing.
Or what about how you would wake up at 4 AM and come home for dinner by 4 PM, and even though you worked phsyically hard all day long while Grandma and we lounged at the pool, you were never too tired after supper to go out back and throw the ball around? You had an arm like a major leaguer, and I threw like a girl. Stacey was so much better at Catch, so you two would play while I ran after the balls that didn't get caught. Sometimes I was jealous of that, but really I didn't mind, because I just loved being out there with you.
I remember how many times you walked us around the corner to the little park, and we sang, "Hi-Ho Cheerio" the whole way there. You pushed us higher and higher on the swings, until I thought my toes would touch the treetops and begged you to stop. And you always stopped. You never let me be scared.
How many times did you grab the two of us girls for a late-night run to Carvel for hot fudge sundaes? Grandma would put in her order, and then we'd go and pick up the treats. I always looked at the silly shaped cakes while you chatted with the guys behind the counter who knew you well. Then you zipped home so Grandma's ice cream wouldn't melt too much.
We had so many traditions when we stayed with you: Grandma giving us each a can of black olives for Christmas, and going out at midnight to bang pots and pans and wake up the neighborhood on New Year's Eve! Going for flowers and planting them at Mom's grave each time we came for a visit. The nightly games of Uno and Skip-bo out in the living room. Grandma in the bedroom, and you in the living room, shouting the answers to "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" back and forth to each other. Wednesday nights at Wendy's, where Stacey and I would each order double pickles on our hamburgers, and I gave all of mine to her. She was the pickle queen!
Today, Grandpa, you're three or four states and far too many hours away from me, and I hate it. I would give anything to have you near me now, for my children to know you as well as I did, to get as much out of knowing you as Stacey and I were able to do.
You did so much for me in my life, and every chance I get, I want to be able to do something for you. Tonight, when you called me after opening the box of pistachios I sent, it absolutely made my day - no, my whole week - to hear how happy you were to get them. When you cried a little bit over it and all the other packages Stacey and I have been sending you lately, I felt that love in my heart that is so big I think I will surely burst. It feels tremendously good to know that you're aware how much you are loved and adored by the two of us.
You mean the world to me, Grandpa, and I thank my lucky stars every day that you're in it.
Love you forever,