My grandpa was a lot of things, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He wanted to be there for people as best he could by being exactly what they needed, when they needed it.
He was smart. There wasn’t a thing Grandpa didn’t know. To us, he was not only a grandfather, father, brother, husband, uncle — he was also a counselor, a lawyer, a cop, a detective, a chef, a doctor, a mechanic, a repairman, a storyteller, a teacher, an encyclopedia. Grandpa was a wealth of knowledge and he knew the answer to every question.
He was brave. Grandpa had the kind of unshakable strength that we all wish we could possess. As a navyman, a police officer, a detective… his courage was unwavering. But his bravest moments came in his ability to soldier on. Nothing got Grandpa down — not ever — and even when he was in the hospital, he’d usually be back on his feet the day he was discharged. He showed no fear; I’m convinced that part of his brain was instead replaced with tremendous, tremendous resilience. In a letter he left us, Grandpa wrote that we should not mourn his passing, for he did not fear death. Even in the face of death, he stood tall.
He was charming. Boy, was he. He charmed my grandma, and together they had four beautiful kids. He charmed his friends at the coffee shop, the nurses at the hospitals, strangers he met on the street, and even the very people he often went head-to-head with in our town. His favorite line whenever he was asked if he needed something was to ask for a smile. He always got it.
He was funny. Grandpa loved to make people laugh. One of his favorite stories to tell was of when he was a kid. A family friend, who happened to be a police officer, drove him home to Gram Gram’s house. When Gram Gram saw him in the cop car, she didn’t give him a chance to explain and immediately started smacking him around. It was only after she stopped that he was able to tell her he was just getting a ride home. He thought it was hilarious, and he certainly wasn’t above debasing himself for a good laugh.
He was selfless. Grandpa’s happiest moments were when he was working to make someone else happy — especially his family. He gave us four glorious days to say our goodbyes to him; he did that for us. He loved us more than he loved himself.
He was a fighter. Grandpa fought and fought and fought. Even though he was constantly in and out of the hospital, he pushed himself. He was a medical miracle, a walking legend. He used to tell me that when he’d join therapy groups and they’d go around the room to talk about their ailments, his laundry list intimidated some so much that they just up and left the group! And Grandpa, who made a friend in everyone, would reach out to them, of course. They would say, “After hearing all you’ve been through, I realized my stuff isn’t so bad.” No one could believe how hard my grandpa fought, day in, and day out. He fought for the things he believed in, he fought for the people he loved, and he fought for his life. In his final days, he fought to make sure we knew how much he loved us. We already knew, but it never hurts to be told by your favorite person in the world that he loves you, too.
He was grateful. He came from a poor childhood and never dreamt that one day he’d have a beautiful family, a big house, and all of this love. I know he would want us all to smile when we think of him and he would be moved to know he had even a small impact on our lives. Lucky for us, it wasn’t just a small impact he made, but a big one. He changed our lives, and we’re better people for knowing him. I’m better because of all of the things he taught me. I’m better because of all of the love he showed me how to share. I’m better because of him.
He was a superhero. I can’t think of a better way to describe him. Grandpa was — is — everything to us. I know he is looking down on all of us — probably holding a cup of coffee, which he loved — and vowing to be our fierce protector, as he always was. He is my hero. He will always be my hero. I love you, Grandpa.