May 18, 2017
A couple of weeks ago, you called me “dadda” for the very first time. It was definitely something I’ve been dreaming about for as long as I’ve known we would have you. Mind you, you could readily point to your mom or I when we asked where Mommy or Daddy was, but you just never chose a label of your own — until now.
Daddy is a good name for a dad. It’s the one I think I prefer. Even so, I’d like to tell you about Poppy.
I used to call my dad Pops, short for Poppy. I’m not sure what the origin of this name was, to be honest, but it was what I can definitely remember calling him as far back as I remember. That goes for all of your uncles too, they called him Pops. I used to think that it was because we grew up around lots of Spanish-speaking folks who used Papí, but then your great uncle was also a Pops, so who knows.
I’ve told you a little about Pops, and more precisely, how challenging our relationship was. Deep down, I know he loved me, but it was a tough love. Most of the time it was never like these letters. I like to think it was a generational thing, where he grew up believing in the importance of structure and discipline when you’re young, then you build a better friendship later as adults. I saw more of that with your Uncle Pat and Deryck and Pops — but I, sadly, never got to really be an adult with him.
But it wasn’t all bad, but with time, those memories are fading, so let me share one today with you. I think I was 11 or 12 years old at the time.
It was a Saturday. On Saturdays we always went to the Bronx with the family and would be forced to hang out either at Carvel, grandma’s store, or at Gold Circle, grandpa’s real estate office. We’d trek back and forth so Ma, could get groceries and do her rounds on the blocks. I hated it then, but am happy we did it.
We were going back home and, I can’t recall why anymore, but I was going back with Pops in his car. One thing you should know about Pops, he loved his cars, and at the time, he was driving a Mercedes Benz 560SL Convertible in bright red. It really was a cool car and fun to drive in.
It was summer time and Pops had the top down that day. I was wearing shorts and we made our way to the Bronx River Parkway to steer our way home towards the Tappan Zee Bridge. Zoom, zoom, zoom.
As we started to get going, I was literally freezing my butt off, but didn’t want to show it. I think Pops noticed it because he started up a conversation to take my mind off of the wind. It helped.
At first I was looking at the speedometer and he asked me a simple question, “Why do you think that 55 is on the speedometer”. While all the other numbers were on the 10s, 55 stood out:
“Because the speed limit is 55?” I guessed out loud. “That’s right,” he said. I felt a small bit of pride in impressing my dad. That always mattered to me. Probably always will.
Ten minutes later, or so, we were approaching the Tappan Zee Bridge and Pops warned, “Don’t worry, it will be warmer soon when we are on the bridge.” “What? How is that possible, it will be colder on the water,” I questioned. “You’ll see”.
Sure enough, the moment we were over the bridge, the temperature warmed noticeably and I was completely amazed. “How did you know that, Pops?” “The water holds the heat longer than the ground, so when we’re over the bridge, we’re feeling that.” he said to my amazement.
My dad was a wizard. Wow. Pops had all kind of practical science to him. I never knew where it came from at the time, but that was the moment that I knew he had it and how cool it was.
The small things sometimes are the best things.
Pops left us 18 years ago, today. It feels like a lifetime ago to me, to a time when I was an entirely different person, certainly not a dadda of my own. I miss him the more I see you grow up. I miss him every time we talk to your other grandpa. I miss him sometimes when I need advice. I miss him.
The only real regret I’ll ever have about Pops was that we never had enough time to get to know each other. Children call their fathers all kinds of things, but, I think, maybe, the most important thing is friend.