• Saying Goodbye to Paw Paw

    Date: 2015.07.02 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Love, Me, Nostalgia | Tags:

    Today is a surreal and sad day. My grandfather, one of the most important and formative people in my life, passed away today. I immediately felt two strong emotions well up inside of me: the sadness, of course. How can I not be sad that my Paw Paw is no longer available for a goofy grin or a silly joke, or to ask me where I’m traveling to next and take pride in my achievements? But another part of me was instantly relieved. He has fought a long and hard battle with Parkinson’s disease that grew especially difficult and frustrating for him over the past two years. I know he was ready to go.

    On Monday, fearing the end was near, the six of us loaded up the van and drove over to see him. Having lost control over most of his ability to communicate, I didn’t know what to expect. But I watched amazed as he perked up when I brought the twins to see him, smiled at Mark and me, and even managed a small wave as Norah boisterously shouted “Paw Paw” and wiggled her little hand at him.

    That was my Paw Paw, always a man who loved children.

    Over the course of today, I’ve been thinking about the huge role he played in my life and the lives of my sisters and cousins.

    He led a big life. He was the Louisiana Secretary of Commerce, the grandson of a construction company dynasty, sat on numerous boards, co-founded a school and even climbed to the very top of Amway. But he was also “Paw Paw,” a man who dropped everything to spend time with his grandchildren, who he loved fiercely.

    “Paw Paw! Let’s ride the airplane!” we’d cry, and he would load us all up in his Caddy and drive his car through the front yard in circles, narrowly avoiding magnolia and pine trees, bushes and ditches. We would squeal in delight and he would giggle right along with us. He would take us to his office after hours, and let us decorate white boards, dig through office supplies, use the old typewriter and raid the company snacks.

    At the infamous family annual Christmas party, Paw Paw would don his well worn Santa suit and load up his sack with presents as we each begged for the chance to be his helper elf (which usually involved putting on a very tight white and green striped onesie with curled green shoes).

    Our family has always loved to play games together, and he was always eager to jump in. Party Lines was a favorite and he was great and coming up with lines that got the whole family laughing with tears pouring out of our eyes.

    Ever the sports fan, Paw Paw kept diligent notes about sporting stats and encouraged us all to take up a sport. I remember many a summer spent at LA Techsters basketball camp while Paw Paw rubbed elbows with the coach and visited with everyone – after all he knew everyone who lived in Ruston.

    One day, my grandfather and I sat talking when I was 16. He asked me if I could travel to anywhere, where would I choose. New York City was at the top of my list. A couple weeks later my parents received a phone call. My grandfather had a business trip that would be taking him to NYC and would I like to go with them? Together we sat down and made a list of all the things and places we wanted to see and go to. When the time arrived, he took that list with us to New York and made sure we did every single item on the list, crossing each off as we accomplished them.

    Together, my grandparents and I traversed the entire city, eating at Tavern on the Green and Sardi’s, going to the top of the Empire State Building and visiting FAO Schwartz. We saw The Lion King and Les Mis on Broadway, and I even remember venturing out to Hard Rock Cafe late at night with them just to cross it off the list.

    My grandfather lived to bring joy to others. Each year he would foot the bill for all four of his children and their families to go to the beach together. Inevitably the kids would get tired of just sitting outside, and he and my uncle Mix would load all the children up and take us to the Big Kahuna water park while the other adults enjoyed the peace and quiet. Another day, they would take us down to the Holiday Inn where we would sneak in through the side door to use their swimming pool and enjoy the arcade. He certainly encouraged a us to have fun, even if it meant a little mischief.

    My sisters and I went to visit him and introduce him to the twins a couple of weeks ago. In a rare moment of clarity, he looked up when we came into his hospital room and said, “Let me see that baby,” and grinned when I brought Luke over. He also spoke my name. I’m so glad that we got to see him at the end, and even introduce the twins to him.

    Dear Paw Paw, I’m so glad you’ve found peace, but so sad my children will never know the way your face lights up when you see your children and great grandchildren, how you always have a funny joke or well-timed wit, or how much and unselfishly you loved with your whole heart. I am so thankful that you always encouraged me to be a better person, and to travel and be successful. I am so blessed and so grateful that I had 30 years with you. Thirty years to love you and bask in the glow of your smile, to hug you and kiss your cheeks.

    Going through some old things tonight, I found this letter he wrote to me after our trip to New York. This was everything he was to me in a nutshell.

    I love you Paw Paw, and I miss you terribly. I look forward to the day we meet again on the other side.