Happy Birthday! I know it’s been over ten years, but I’ve been thinking about you a lot recently.
I don’t know if you knew this then (though I’m sure you do now), but you were my favorite. I never really said it out loud because, well, I felt like choosing a favorite grandparent was akin to a parent choosing a favorite child. We all know it happens, but you’re not supposed to admit it. I always secretly thought that maybe I was your favorite, too – or, at the very least, that we had a special bond – maybe because I was your only granddaughter.
You were the one who taught me all those old barbershop quartet songs, that I now sing to the kids I babysit. The first one to try to teach me an instrument – though, to be fair, the ukulele is a hard place for a child to start. I wonder if you knew how much I wanted to impress you. I tried to play; I sang my heart out; I memorized poems that you liked, just to be able to recite them to you. And I loved every minute of it.
The other day, I was walking by the World War II Memorial, here in D.C. It may just be the new kid on the block as far as memorials go, but it’s also one of my favorites.
There are benches there that list the different branches of the armed forces, and the side labeled “Merchant Marines” caught my eye. I noticed it because, though I recognized the title, I didn’t know nearly as much about it as I should. I didn’t find out until far too late that you had been a Merchant Marine; I didn’t know that you had served in World War II until I could no longer ask you about it.
I’ve realized that there’s so much I never got a chance to talk to you about; there are so many stories of yours that I never got to hear. And I’ve done a lot of growing up, myself, since you saw me last.
But there’s still a little part of me that desperately wants to impress you.
Happy Birthday, Poppop. Miss you.
A haze on the far horizon
The infinite tender sky
The rich, ripe tint of the cornfields
With wild geese sailing high
All over upland and lowland
The charm of the golden-rod
Some of us call it Autumn
Others call it God
~one of Poppop’s favorites, and one of the first that I remember him teaching me