Wednesday, September 30, 2009

World's Greatest Pop-Pop

I have been a bit absent from the computer lately. There are two parts to a successful blog: one, having adventures. Two, writing about adventures. Not necessarily in that order. In fact, I am a big proponent of writing about wishing I had adventures. Not lately, Constant Reader. Lately, I have been an adventurer who has lapsed in logging of said adventures.

You would probably expect me to tell you about some of my recent exciting experiences, and yet it is actually a mundane occurance which has prompted me to wake my hibernating computer today. After work, I headed to a Happy Hour for a few rounds with my colleagues. Unfortunately, I left a few minutes after them, and I ended up behind a (sloooow) car with a license plate holder that proudly proclaimed the owner of said car to be the "World's Greatest Pop-Pop".

Umm....I think not.

Seriously, I looked at this guy when I finally managed to pass his slow-ass. He did not look all that great. And I happen to know that the World's Greatest Pop-Pop died in 2000. Yes, nearly ten years ago, and my little pea-brain can still manage to contour up his exact laugh at will. I can still hear him say "Yeah, yeah, yeah," when he hears some random story he likes as if I had last heard him say it yesterday. I hang on to these memories because they are all I have left.

My Pop-pop was a plumber who had big, stiff, working-man hands and whiskers on his chin at all times. When I was a little kid, he came to the house and we rubbed cheeks to say hello. He always wore a fedora-type hat, and he was impossible to buy Christmas presents for. He was the type of guy who didn't need much to make him happy, and who bought whatever he did need. My siblings and I gave him silly things for Christmas - like levels and cheapo tools, hunting gear, joke books, cook books, and pictures we drew ourselves. My parents bought him cigarettes and beer, until he gave up smoking. Yet, he always opened each gift and thanked us so whole-heartedly, that our hard work in thinking of that perfect thing always paid off. One year, I bought him a new fedora with a fancy feather in the band. He never wore it, to my knowledge, but it was still in the house when he passed away, in the original packaging. In his own way, I think he truly appreciated these gifts, even treasured them, but he never really needed them at all.

My Pop-pop loved corny jokes, and he told them all the time. Our favorites were the "almost dirty" kind - What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? A HellifIknow! He told the same jokes nearly every time he visited (like, weekly) and he always always laughed out loud at the punchlines. Somehow, I never grew tired of them.

There was nothing my Pop-pop seemed to enjoy more than making my grandmother argue with him. In fact, I think they both enjoyed it. Even to the days when his body ravaged with cancer, and he was weak with pain, I remember him telling her that she was not removing the lid from the "Ensure" can correctly. Did they argue because they were actually mad at one another? Or because bickering about mundane daily life kept them from worrying about the big issues?

My Pop-pop had endless patience (with us kids, not with the Ensure can manufacturers). When he got home from work, I went into the basement and asked him question after question after question. I do not once remember him being short with me, or ever suggesting that I was asking too much. He explained what every tool in the workshop did, when he used it, why he kept it stored in such a way, how he cleaned it, why I shouldn't pick it up, how it worked, why I shouldn't plug it in, and where the sharp parts were.

My Pop-pop was in World War II, and he flew a plane. Though we often bought him plane-themed gifts (for lack of a better option), we never knew a whole lot about his plane-flying days. It was not until his funeral that we heard the tale of his homecoming from the war - when he flew a plane just above the power lines on a residential street over his mother's house, to let her know he had safely returned. He received only a small fine for the infraction.

Worlds Greatest Pop-pop? He truly was, and it is amazing how I still remember him so clearly. I hope I never forget.


Liz Baer said...

Nicki, you made me cry... :)
Unfortunately, I don't remember most of these things quite so clearly. I was only in 8th grade when he died, which gives me few years with him where I was old enough to keep my memories forever. I don't know if that makes sense, but I think when a person is really young, they don't understand the importance of the things they will always want to remember, so the memories only stay for a short time. And they only realize how important those things they don't remember were when it's already too late.

Therefore, though there are some very clear ones, most of the memories I have are much more vague, though just as meaningful. I wish I had had more years with him to make memories I would remember. What I do remember, I hope to never forget.

Tiffany said...

I got him deer pee once for Christmas! He loved it...or at least that's how I remember it from his reaction! I'm thinking about getting that same gift for you this year since it was such a hit for him:-)