Overwhelmingly, this week I’m so thankful for shared memories. As family members came together to remember Papa, inevitably the conversation turned to “I’ll never forget the time Bud…” and “Uncle Bud always…” and “Papa was just so….”. I’ve learned so much about him this week. The sharing of words, the hugs, the kindness – it’s made a difficult time a little bit easier.
I’m not sure when I became a person who gives eulogies. It’s certainly not easy for me to stand up and speak, but there have been family members that just require it. When the gentleman from the funeral home asked if we’d like to open up a time during the funeral to share, I knew I would.
I didn’t know how I’d get through it, but I knew there were things I had to say publicly about Papa. Sunday morning, before he passed, I had a few minutes alone with him and I was able to say things I’d said so many times to him before but needed to say one more time. I’m so thankful for that. But there were things I needed others to know about my Papa, and I’m so glad for that extra strength it took to stand up and speak.
These are the memories that were most important to me to share, without the awkward times my voice broke or went oddly high. I added a few comments (ahem – I never did get that pony I was promised when I was five) and skipped a few words.
My grandfather would probably be a little annoyed at us all for this today. He really didn’t like to be made a big fuss over. It just wasn’t in his nature.
But here’s the thing, Papa.
You’re kind of a big deal to all of us who knew and loved you.
When I was born, he decided he wasn’t old enough to be a grandpa…so Papa it was and Papa he’s been. When my daughter was little, he tried to get her to call him “Old Bud”, but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness.
He was right, though. He was never a grandpa and never did typical grandpa things. My Papa rode horses, he did flips off the diving board and would take a gaggle of grandkids on hikes up at Cathey’s Valley to look at Indian rocks. He’d pick me up from first grade to take me to the horse races at the Fresno Fair, and put down money on what ever horse I thought had the prettiest name…usually something like Rainbow Sparkles…no matter how bad the odds were. My papa made homemade fudge and popcorn balls, and always seemed to have cookies hidden somewhere in the kitchen. He’d pick up my sister Carrie and I and take us for drives, and let us sing along to Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys over and over and over. My papa asked me every time I saw him if I had a boyfriend, even if I’d just seen him the day before, from the time I was four or five.
And when I finally did have a boyfriend and that boyfriend proposed to me, the first time that poor boy met my Papa was the night we were engaged. His knee was still wet. And Papa ran him through the ringer – he asked questions about Tom’s background, about his plans for the future and even if he’d mind having some blood tests done. Tom didn’t know it, but Grammy and I could see that glint in his eye and knew he was just having fun with him.
I think more than anything, I will miss that glint and the stories that went with it. I will miss hearing about Oklahoma and the Dust Bowl and how the wind blew so much dirt into the air, you’d see prairie dogs swimming through it. About playing music with his Dad and siblings and about his Mama’s cooking. I’ll miss hearing about his years farming and the things he did with his own kids. And I’ll miss hearing him tell the story of how I loved the Muppet Show when I was little, but would run from the room when he said Pigs in Spaaaace.
When my children were young, Papa would often ask me if I was planning to have more, and would warn me that surest way to be poor was to have a large family. I’m sure that as 1 of 10 children, he was speaking from experience but I don’t think he was right. Being a rich man has nothing to do with money or things – the richest man is one who lives his life surrounded by those who love him.
Papa, I hope you realize how truly rich you were, how much of a big deal you were and how very much you are already missed. I will carry you and your stories and the love you had for your family with me every day of my life, and I will make sure that I share it with those around me.