I was in my grandma’s basement, doing a random chore and feeling sad. Then I turned around, saw it, and smiled. Four plastic milk crates were stacked on top of each other. The openings faced out and they were held together with twist ties. I recognized these makeshift shelves. I have a smaller version holding my printer and stacks of paper in my apartment. My grandfather probably put those four crates together decades ago and at some point I got some of those crates and decided to do the same thing. That’s the moment I realized that even though my grandfather passed away on February 20, 2017, he isn’t completely gone.
He used to talk about the time he watched an Eagles game from a team suite with his daughter. Afterward, he made sure they went over to the man who made it possible and said thank you. That man, Leonard Tose, asked for his name and told him he was welcome to come watch a game in the suite anytime. Tose said, “Of all the people here, you’re the only one who said thank you.” His nickname as a kid was Fibber, but believe the story or not, the message is clear — always say thank you.
Cutting grass was one of his side gigs. He let me tag along and take swipes with the mower before I was tall enough to see over the handlebar. Then we’d go to Butch’s and he’d buy me a soda and a snack. Sometimes we’d stop to fill gallon containers with fresh spring water and I’d carry each heavy gallon container up a hill to where the car was parked. I was learning about hard work.
Gramp was always happiest around family. He loved birthdays, holidays or even just a random weekend get-together. I don’t think he ever missed any of the soccer, basketball or baseball games my brother or I played. He knew the value of quality time and the importance of being part of a team.
Then there’s all the other stuff he taught me, like how to fish or how to fire up a grill. I probably wouldn’t know how to swim if he didn’t throw me into the deep end of Aunt Lois’s pool.
We knew the end was near and we got to say goodbye. He went peacefully and without pain. Because of the things he taught me and others, he’s still around in a lot of ways. The more I think of him now the more I find myself smiling. I know the smiles will stay. I just hope that eventually I’ll stop feeling so sad.