My Poppy

11 Jun

It’s been 12 years.

My family and I were in Duck, North Carolina, sharing a lovely beach house with my godparents and their son for spring break, I think. Most of the vacation is a blur seeing as how I was in 8th grade; I know I spent sometime with Darling and my godmother shopping, sometime with my brother playing Monopoly, running around the beach chasing crabs.

I remember sunning on the deck, staring at the vast ocean when my godmother suggested I go down to my room for awhile. Next thing I know, we’re packing up to go to upstate New York for the funeral.

One of the only thoughts running through mind was how I didn’t have a black dress, only a stupid dress with sunflowers all over it and flip-flops. I couldn’t possibly go to the funeral that way. I think I did, though. And then I didn’t know what to say to Darling. Hugs and I’m sorrys and smiles, they don’t do the trick. We tried to keep the long trip up there light-hearted and ignore the current task at hand. We think we saw a UFO, but maybe it was a greater wish to think there is something in the heavens, that we weren’t alone in the dark night, driving in the rain on a very quiet highway.

Being a 13 year-old girl during family crises isn’t the easiest thing to do… on the one hand you are more mature than people believe yet they shelter you like a two-year old.  I attended the wake for a short period of time before my older cousin whisked my brother and I away to watch Corrina, Corrina or some other silly movie, all the while sitting in Grandma and Poppy’s house.  In his chair. Next to his Rolo candy holder. Anytime the topic turned to somber, someone would shush me out of the room as if I wasn’t supposed to hear it, be a part of it.

The day of the funeral, my brother (eight at the time, I think) is offered a chance to give a eulogy. He did it quickly, as he was overcome with emotion, and ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. I’ll never forget it to this day. The one thing I regret, possibly more than the awful dress I wore, was not going up to Poppy’s coffin and looking at him one last time. I don’t know what I was afraid of: the idea of mortality or fear of my would-be reaction to him. ( I think that is the reason I forced myself to approach the coffin of one of my colleagues in college, for fear of the regret if I didn’t.)

The day after the funeral, before we left for the long, solemn trip home, outside playing a modified version of cricket, running after the ball, I smelled Old Spice, the “old-man,” kind, that Poppy wore on a daily basis. For that one moment, I knew he was there, with me and suddenly I felt better. He’s always watched over us and I swear I’ve seen him in my parents’ house during Christmas time, with our old dog. I don’t remember a long grieving process but every Christmas when Grandma comes, Darling, Grandma and I have a moment where we all look at each other and know that we are thinking about Poppy. We hug, we wipe the tears away, and work on the Christmas decorations/dinner or other festivities.

There is no reason for this post, other than to never forget his life, his role in our family, his voice and smile. Grandma has started giving me some of his belongings: the silver baby cup with his initials on it, items from his days in the military, old pictures. In this way we can feel close to him and closer to each other, sharing memories, new stories we weren’t aware of. And I, well, I have a box of his letters. I read them late at night when I crash at my parents house and remember…

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2 Responses to “My Poppy”

  1. nova June 12, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    That’s how they continue to live on, through the memory of others.

    A beautiful and sad memory. I love entries like these.

  2. oh June 14, 2008 at 10:06 pm #

    whew. got me with this one. Funny the things our family doesn’t talk about a lot but we all get it; we all loved him and miss him. And honor him in so many different ways. Like this beautiful blog, for instance.

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