Their love was like that out of a story book. They met on a Greyhound bus bound for Pennsylvania. She played hard to get, but he got her. And their love grew over 60-some years (as my grandma said to me yesterday). And their family grew too. Six children, 27 grand-children, 16 great-grandchildren.
He was a Sicilian, a Merchant Marine, a ball player, a wallpaper hanger, a husband, father, grandfather. He taught us to respect our parents, work hard, and appreciate a good Italian olive. No boy we liked earned the title 'boyfriend' until he'd met Pappap and got the approval, which was a squeeze of the hand and a wink.
I remember when I was 15 years old, I got a second hole pierced in my ears. I went over to my grandparents' house sometime afterwards and he immediately said to me, "What are you doing with all that metal in your ears??" I desperately tried to argue my point and convince him that it was cool to have four earrings in my ears. But there was no convincing Pappap of anything if he didn't want to be convinced. He would often say that if any grandkids showed up to the house with a tattoo, he'd scrub it off himself.
Never again did I wear four earrings to Grandma and Pappap's house.
And two weeks ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my Pappap and cousin, Katherine. Katherine asked me, "hey, do you have an extra hole in yours ears?" With Pappap sitting right there, I tried to squelch the conversation about controversial piercings. Even so close to death, I was afraid he'd wollop me!
Pappap was a strong man, a stubborn one, a gruff one at times. But boy, could he love. When we were kids, he would grab us as we were walking by and hold on tight. That man had the tightest grip. He would squeeze us hard, and we'd squirm and try to get away but never once could I get out of that strong grip. All he wanted was a kiss, and as soon as we gave up and kissed him on the cheek, we were free to go.
He was the pillar of our family and I can't imagine a gathering without him sitting at the head of the table, watching, listening and soaking in his beautiful family. He lived a hard, beautiful, full life and there is no doubt that when he finally arrived in heaven, he heard the words "Well done, my good and faithful servant" from his Jesus. And then I bet he challenged Jesus to a card game.
One blog post can't begin to touch on the life of a man like my Pappap. And I feel like this post is entirely inadequate. We are missing him terribly this week and our hearts are aching. It's so tough for me to be here in Hawaii, alone, when my heart is with my family in Maryland. But in spite of the tears and the sadness, there is great joy. We rejoice that he is home with Jesus. His body is whole and healthy and he knows nothing but joy. Like my dad said the night I said a tearful goodbye to Pappap a few weeks ago, "Our hope of heaven is his reality". And we have this promise...
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4