Sunday, January 20, 2008
Happy 95th, Pap-Pap!
We celebrated my grandfather's 95th birthday Friday. I wrote this for him. It made him laugh, and it made him cry, and it made me very happy to watch him read it, and see the joy it brought him on his special day.
If someone who never met my grandpa were to ask me what he is like, this is what I would tell them...
My grandfather, Ken, is friendly, a good sport, strong, positive, slow to anger, and loving.
My grandpa is Friendly with a capital F! He always talks to people, wherever he goes. He talks to people at the grocery store, the doctor's office, the bank, the bus stop, WHEREVER! He loves people of all ages, and he loves to joke with people and make them laugh. I was lucky enough to be able to go on some vacations with my grandfather. One of my favorite stories is from a trip we all took to Virginia Beach. We were walking on the boardwalk, and passed a few young guys, who were sitting on the wall, girl watching. My grandpa stopped, and asked them, "Well, fellas. Are you having any luck with the ladies?" They all smiled, shrugged, and shook their heads, "Nah, not really". My grandpa smiled his ornery grin, and replied, "Well, maybe you just aren't using the right technique. Playing Popeye always worked for me". Then he took his teeth out, pushed out his chest, and flashed his muscles at the next group of pretty girls going past! Those guys laughed so hard, one of them fell off the wall into the sand! I could still hear them laughing as we walked away, and I just know they reminded each other of that story for years.
My grandpa is a good sport. He is competitive, and he taught me to always play to win, but he also taught me how to be a gracious loser. We love to play games in my family, and I especially like playing Chinese Checkers or Ping Pong with him. He is really good at both, and extremely hard to beat. It became my goal - to beat my grandpa at a game of Chinese Checkers. When the day finally came that I could beat him, even though I could tell he was a bit disappointed, he stuck out his hand to shake mine, and said, "Well, Jenny, that was a good game. You have really become a good player". I felt so proud!
My grandpa is strong. His dad died when he was only two years old, and his mom had five children to take care of, so my grandpa always did what he could to help her. He grew up during the depression, and he learned to appreciate the things that he had, and not take anything for granted. He gave up a football scholarship to get a job and help his mom with the finances. When my grandpa was newly married, he and his father in law, worked every night for 2 years, after working hard at their jobs all day, to build the house that my grandfather still lives in to this day. My grandpa hasn't had an easy life, but he is strong because of it, or in spite of it, and I admire him and what he has accomplished.
My grandpa is positive. He is almost always happy and smiling, and he seldom complains. He loves to laugh, and when he laughs, his face turns red, his whole body shakes, and tears come out of his eyes! He tries to always see the good in people, and I can't remember a time I ever heard him talk about someone behind their back.
My grandpa is slow to anger. It is rare to ever see him get upset, and when he does, he usually just shakes his head, and doesn't say anything. I can't remember a time that I saw my grandparents fight. They were always so patient and loving towards each other. The only time that my grandpa would get mad, is when he was driving. As a kid, I used to get such a kick out of his behavior behind the wheel, because it was so out of character. Once on a trip to Washington, D.C., my grandpa was trying to navigate through heavy traffic, with all of us crammed into the car, when a taxi driver beeped his horn at him, and gave him the finger. My grandpa shouted out, "Yea, buddy, you go ahead and give me the finger! I'll give you the whole hand!', making motions at the guy with his hand. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.
My grandpa is loving. The love he showed for my grandma was beautiful and inspiring. He was always keeping an eye on her, and asking how she was. They finished each other's sentences, and my grandma would often pause to say, "Right, Ken?"
In almost every picture taken of the two of them, my grandpa's hand is resting lovingly on her shoulder - her best friend and protector. He has always shown so much love for our family. He always made time to play with us grandkids - tickling our feet until we begged for mercy, roasting marshmallows in the basement, playing baseball in the yard, and playing games with us, like Uno and Chinese Checkers.
My grandpa is an amazing man that I admire, respect, and love a great deal. I am so grateful for the lessons he has taught me, the time he spent with me, the sacrifices that he made for me and for our family, and the love he gave so generously. I am so lucky to have him as a grandfather, and I hope to be more like him - more friendly, strong, positive, slow to anger, and loving.