12 years ago, an abundance of change occurred in our family. We lost a valuable member a year earlier and gained many more the following year. One of those members included a man who would make an impact in ways I'd never expected.
On a quiet weekend afternoon, I spent the day with new people who would eventually become family. Dad had been dating someone new for months, but this was the first time I would become acquainted with her relatives. I shyly entered the foyer at Lynda's, unsure of what to expect. It's well known that I have trouble with change, and I'd definitely had a bit of anxiety over the slew of it. I greeted Lynda, then various members of her family, until I came to a towering, booming man with huge hands and silvery hair.
"Is that a good book?" He asked, gesturing to my tiny elf hands. His voice was warm. Maybe he wasn't as scary as I thought.
"So far," I replied quietly, my voice not nearly as audible as his.
"She loves books!" Lynda told him.
Boy did I. I had everything, from children's series books, to fairy tales, to classics. You name it, I had it.
His eyes lit up. "Do you?" he said. "So do I." I smiled. Anyone who was a book lover was a friend of mine. I walked into the living room, a bit closer to home. "How many books do you have?" I asked, curious.
"Oh, I lost count! I have a whole room of them."
A whole room? I had a whole closet of them, sure, but never an entire room of treasures.
From there, we took off, conversing back and forth so much that Lynda suggested we sit in the dining room, then she got drinks for us. I learned he was a special education teacher at the high school I was attending. (he retired two years before I began going there) He was a fantastic storyteller. I loved listening to his teaching adventures and and I could hear the joy in his voice when he talked about his "kids." I told him what I loved about school and admitted what I didn't. Eventually, as the sun set and our voices became hoarse, I realized I'd forgotten one key question in our conversation.
"What's your name anyway?" I asked him.
He looked at me over his silver rimmed glasses and smiled. "You can call me Pop." I'd had no idea I was talking to Lynda's dad. From that moment on, The booming man with huge hands who loved books became my grandfather. His wife was Nannie.
As I lived out the remainder of my adolescence, Pop became one of my biggest champions. He always made sure I had everything I needed, and stood up for me during the rare moments I wasn't able to. I, along with my brothers, fit right in with his other grandchildren, Danielle, Pat, Betsy and Bobby. Then, two more grandchildren arrived in the family: Jade and Jamie, now beautiful young ladies. Six years ago, he got to meet his first great-grandchild, Dean, followed by Matt, two years later.
On September 19th, Pop left this Earth peacefully, exactly the way he wanted to: With his children and as many grandchildren as he could have by his side. One key thing that I'll always recall about Pop is that he loved his family and being enveloped by that love was all he needed. Yesterday was his memorial service, as well as Nannie and Pop's 63rd wedding anniversary.