“Poppie” was the result of my very young attempt to say “grandpa” – and it stuck. I was the first born grandchild and my predecessors agreed the name was right by them too.
I was only a few months old the day we met so I don’t remember the encounter but my mother has told me it was an awkward meeting. Not for me, but for her father and for herself. My mother was young, un-married with a baby, and moving home after fleeing an abusive relationship with my biological father.When my grandfather arrived to pick us up it was the first time he’d seen my mother in months and the first time he’d ever seen me. He was not impressed with the situation and was trying to remain gruff and uninterested in me. Apparently as they drove home silently I must have been in a very good mood because I couldn’t sit still or stay silent. I bounced around while my mother tried to keep me still and I babbled baby talk directly to my grandfather. I knew he adored me. He just didn’t know it yet and I wanted to get our relationship going! When he finally couldn’t resist and glanced my way – I had him! It was the beginning of a long loving relationship we shared.
I lived with my grandparents along with my mother on and off for the first five years of my life. And I loved it! I was the center of attention for not one but three adults who delighted in my every move. How great is that!
Some of my fondest memories are when I would “work” beside my grandfather. My grandmother would sell it to me. She would tell me that my helping him with certain jobs was very important. “He couldn’t have done it without me” she’d say and I just ate it up. I couldn’t wait to go to work with him. He always gave me certain jobs to do and it made me feel very responsible. This is huge when you are still so young.
My mother went away to get married the summer I turned seven. I stayed with my grandparents. When she and my new dad returned from their honeymoon I was excited to see them both and ran around showing off and acting silly. My father and my grandfather stood talking while I was running around like a banshee. My grandfather told me to settle down but I ignored him…and then I lost my footing and came crashing down. I think I was more embarrassed than hurt but I cried loudly and dramatically and then ran to my new dad for comfort. Not my grandfather. Years later, when I was an adult, Poppie told me how that almost broke his heart, but he said he knew it was right. He was at once sad that he had been replaced, and happy that I clearly loved my new dad.
I was the last in our family to see Poppie alive. He was eighty five and in the hospital for surgery that should have been straight forward and not life threatening. My grandmother had passed away only two months earlier and I think much of his will to go on went with her. While I visited him at the hospital he was bleeding internally but nobody realized it. He was supposed to be transferred to another hospital for more surgery the next day. He was very uncomfortable and in a great deal of pain. After a short visit he said he didn’t like me to see him like that. “You should go now” he said. I hated to see him suffering and was a bit relieved that he suggested I go.
I gave him a kiss and hugged him goodbye. When I reached the door I stopped and turned around. “See you in the other place” I said. He smiled and nodded. He died that night.
I can’t explain the kind of strong bond we shared. It’s beyond words. I’m still aware of his influence in my life today and I feel comfort knowing I’ll see him in “the other place” one day.