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The Long Goodbye

February 20, 2013

Papa, besides being the wonderful person you are,

You were my first hero. And you were also my first friend. How could you not be? Outside of my parents, you spent more time with me the first year of my life than any other person.

Early on, you delighted in teaching me a great many things: how to make a “constipated face,” how to burp on command, what a “barking spider” is, how to ride a horse, how to drive a car, when to flip a “hickory burger,” and you even tried to teach me how to sell dresses (although the last part never really stuck for me).

You taught me to restlessly pursue your goals, literally, even (or especially) if that means getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do so. You taught me my work ethic, my moral ethic, and my life ethic.

And even though you’re gone now, I know that you will live on in our memories as a friend, a grandfather, and a hero.

As a friend, I’ll always remember your amazing sense of humor. One of my favorite jokes was when you would quip that you had more hair than you needed; you had closets full. I don’t know why, but that one has special meaning to me.I’ll remember the conspiratorial jokes we’d share at dinners after a long day of work at the Water Wheel Cafe, the sly comments with a quick wink on the side that would let me in on the joke.

As a grandfather, I’ll always remember how you would play “midnight poker” with us grandkids, so long as we were playing at midnight, Eastern Standard Time. You were a kid at heart, and always had us grandchildren share in your fun, whether it was when you sat at the kids’ table, or when you taught us to read your horoscopes and fortune cookies by reciting “besides being the wonderful person you are,” before reading the rest of it.

You loved your family, a good joke, taking a nap in a movie theater, and a song, as long as you could belt it at the top of your lungs.

And when it came to your heroism, you idolized and emulated the silver screen cowboys: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Ronald Reagan. You strove to live like they did, and achieved that lifestyle on your own terms. But unlike those silver screen heroes, your heroism was never faked, always genuine, and a pure product of the choices of your spirit, not some contrived circumstances.

Papa, besides being the wonderful person you are, your heroism will never die. Your memory will always stick with us, and your friendship and generosity of spirit will live on through our memory of you and your vision of the world that you helped shape. I know that you were proud to have lived larger than life, as a hero not only in the mind of a grandson who will always miss you, but never forget you.

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