In loving memory…

My grandpa passed away last week at 85 years old. I’ve been sifting through memories of him lovingly and longingly.

I met him when I was 6.5 years old, and I remember thinking he was the biggest big person I’d ever seen. He was so tall and lean! When he picked me up, it felt like I could see for miles. When my mom married my dad, he & my grandma adopted me into the family seamlessly. They loved me as if I’d always been there.

My childhood is full of memories of fishing with Grandpa, “learning” how to bone a fish (which was really just me dry gagging and handing the knife back to him), peppering him wth questions and sneaking sits in “his” chair. I can remember him and grandma in the audience of my one and only piano recital, and in the crowds of any theatre production I was involved in (including the one in which I was only a dancing flower in one song in the second act). He didn’t even complain when my cousin Christine and I wrote the never-heard Christmas classic Oh, Fake Christmas Tree which we sang through fits of giggles, ad infinitum, one Christmas Eve. He dutifully sat on the green velvet basement couch and watched our homemade Christmas production, clapping in all the right places.

But one grandpa memory is bigger than the rest. When my best friend Tricia went missing in Indiana, my grandpa showed up for one of the search parties. I can still remember how I felt seeing him, standing there taller than everyone else. I felt loved and supported and something akin to being known. We (my mom, dad & I) really needed his support that day — and he showed up.

That’s what all of us say about John Vincent “Boots” Malloy — he showed up.

Whether it was to countless sporting and scholastic events for my cousins or stepping in to help my parents, aunts & uncles, as a fireman fighting fires, or graciously loving each and every “in law” as if they were his own — he was there. He showed up.

We left Ohio when I was almost 14 years old, and I didn’t see my grandpa as frequently. As an adult, I struggled with depression and isolation, and I saw him less frequently still. I’ll always regret that, I think.

As I continue my journey to health and wholeness, I will keep my grandpa’s example in my heart. I want to be the kind of person who shows up. With depression forever behind me, I want to be seen. I want my people to look in the audience of their life and see my face dutifully watching and supporting — metaphorically and otherwise.

Goodbye, grandpa. You loved and you lived well. You were the King of Irish Goodbyes (which is also something I’m happy to have learned from you 😉). You were a man of few words, yet you have left an incredible legacy. It’s woven through your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Thank you for your example.

Thank you for lovingly adopting my mom and me into the family.

Thank you for teaching my dad how to be a dad.

Thank you for showing up. We love you.

“Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
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