When I think of Pa, I think of him laughing.
He laughed a lot, and made us laugh even more. His laugh is what sticks in my mind now as I look back on years of memories that sadly will no longer be made after today.
I’ve known this day was coming my entire life. My mom even used to warn us when we were being brats and didn’t want to call or go over to our grandparents’ house: “They won’t be around forever.” I’ve dreaded this day my entire life, and I knew it had to come, yet part of me thought it never would. Pa was 92. He was sharp, quick-witted and funny till the very end.
He told great stories, even if they were sometimes exaggerated, or made up altogether. In elementary school I interviewed him about his time in the service during WWII. He told me elaborate tales of him as a fighter pilot. I found out later from my mom that he never actually was in combat. But that was after I had turned in a really interesting report.
He was a drummer. Charlie Dell. He traveled the country playing music as a career until shortly after my uncle was born, when he looked at the men around him, old and drunk and doing the same thing night after night, and realized this was no way to raise a family.
Then he was a salesman until he retired. It was after retirement that he started – mainly as a hobby, out of his garage – the business that would grow into the thriving company that has put food (and much more) on the table for my family almost my entire life.
He married my grandma in 1945 and last year they celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.
It’s a wonder they have any photos at all from their wedding day. Their photographer, Pa’s uncle, who was giddy about his fancy pants borrowed camera, snapped away the entire day and realized at the end he hadn’t loaded any film into the camera.
This was from their 63rd anniversary:
On my wedding day, they were the last couple on the dance floor during the married couples dance. Pa faked a heart attack when the DJ announced how many years they had been married.
He and my grandma were and are good friends with my other grandparents, so many family gatherings included all four of them.
What a blessing to have both sides of the family like family to one another. In fact, the four of them would often get together on their own to play cards or go out to eat.
Pa and Nana have lived in the same house for 56 years. This is the house my mom grew up in, and I practically grew up in. It’s filled with so many memories.
Pa was an artist who made silly ceramic toothpick holders and quirky copper garden sculptures. He learned old English and wrote sonnets inspired by a Shakespeare poetry book I gave him years ago. He wrote long letters filled with advice and short, nonsensical, yet somehow profound emails. One of the last things he said to me this past weekend – with much effort and little clarity as he struggled to speak – was that he wants me to read his file of “before and after thoughts.” I cried and cried, and haven’t seen them yet, but knowing Pa I have a good idea of what those musings will be like: introspective with a good dose of goofy.
He was a magician and a mini-magician’s teacher (me being the mini-magician as a child).
He almost always had a trick up his sleeve – the most epic and memorable being an Easter egg hunt riddled with twists, turns and challenges along the way, which resulted in my little brother winning $50 in a surprise ending.
He was the founder of FredonteQ, a club he created for his five grandkids.
Now he has two great-grandsons, who he could always make smile.
He was the leader of the annual Christmas Eve family band.
He was perhaps the only octogenarian to play Call of Duty on his computer.
He was the self-proclaimed “Merrymaker Guy,” and that’s how I’ll always remember Pa.