I’ve been writing blog posts in my head for days. Within hours of finding out that my Papa had passed my mind began turning to all the reasons I, and so many others loved him. None of what I was writing measured up, though, so I didn’t put any of them down on paper (or blog.) It has finally occurred to me though, that nothing I write about him will ever measure up. How could I ever hope to convey the man he was with mere words?
I could tell you he grew up during the Great Depression on a Maine farm as one of 12 kids. There were worse places to live through such a thing, he could hunt and fish and garden. He learned to eat what was available and to enjoy it. I don’t know many people who would look at me with such joy when I walked in to give him 10 lbs of liver from the half cow we had bought or get excited about a fish, planning immediately to fry it up for breakfast the next morning. Living through the Great Depression didn’t define him but it taught him to be self-reliant.
I could tell you about his service with the 10th Mountain Division during WWII. You could learn more about his service by reading about the war online though than he ever shared with us. He told just enough stories to let us know why he didn’t talk about it and we respected that. His service in WWII taught him to appreciate what he’d left behind. After the war, after his service was complete, he returned to Maine and didn’t leave again except for the odd trip to Vermont or over the border into Canada.
Instead, I’ll tell you about his wicked sense of humor.
He was a prankster of the first order but never mean spirited, that’s not easy to pull off. When he was an adult he once stopped by his father’s house and found his father sound asleep. Apparently my great grandfather was a heavy sleeper because Papa tied his toes together and left. The next day he stopped by again and said to his father, “I stopped by yesterday.” to which his dad replied in a dry tone, “Oh, I know.”
There was a punchline to every story and as soon as he reached it he would, and those of you who were fortunate enough to know him will hear this in his Downeast drawl, laugh like hell. He did that a lot, my Papa. He loved to laugh and he loved to make others laugh. This is what defines him.
Instead, I will tell you of his great love of family.
He wasn’t the type of man to tell you in words he loved you, you just knew it. I remember clearly last fall, when we thought we were losing him, giving him a kiss and telling him “I love you.” before I left after a visit. He looked surprised for a second and replied, “Well, I love you too.” I never ended another visit without that kiss or without telling him I loved him and not because I needed to hear him say it because I did know it already. I just didn’t have the same talent for telling people that without words and I needed him to know it so I said it.
Today, I’ll honor him in the way I know he’d like best. I’ll love my family, I’ll miss my home and I’ll share the last joke he ever told me.
This young guy saw an ad in the paper for a horse for sale for $50. He stopped round to visit the old guy selling the horse to look the horse over. He looked him all over and finally he asked the old guy, “Why are you selling this horse for $50?”
The old guy replied, “Well, he just don’t look right.”
The young guy scoffed, “He looks alright to me!” and he paid the man the $50.
The next day the young guy brought the horse back and said in an indignant tone, “Look here, this horse is blind!”
The old guy looked at him for a minute and then replied, “I told you he don’t look right.”
I hope that made you laugh like hell, because it would have surely made my Papa’s day to hear it.