When we were small, we called him Buppa. Later on it became Grandpa, because most teenagers in the 80’s did not use such terms of endearment, especially in front of friends. In my heart, however, he was always Buppa.
Buppa used to tell his grandchildren stories to make us laugh. He loved this one:
It was a dark and stormy night. Three men were sitting around a campfire. One said, “Joe, tell us a story!” So Joe began:
It was a dark and stormy night. Three men were sitting around a campfire….
We would get the giggles, so easily entertained, and he would laugh and we would beg him to tell it again.
I found a photograph not too long ago, and my Grandpa was laying on his back on our living room shag carpet. My brother had on his fireman pj’s and I wore my Lanz nightgown. My brother’s dimples, so deep as he laughed, my smile wide; eyes bright. Grandpa engaged with us. He wasn’t perfect but he was deeply good and kind.
In New England, and in my family of origin, ice cream is a huge part of life. Going out for a cone is an event, and simply the best. Those brown sprinkles on top? They are known as Jimmies. Never sprinkles, unless you want to be an obvious tourist.
I was five years old and loved Jimmies, but was upset that my cousin, Jimmy, had this special topping named after him. (He didn’t, of course, but I was five and inconsolable.) Grandpa took care of this breezily. As we stepped to the Brigham’s ice cream counter, he announced my order to the server. “My beautiful granddaughter will have a vanilla cone with “Kristin’s” sprinkled on top.”
I was stunned. Grandpa was matter-of-fact about my beauty and this new name for Jimmie’s? These things never happened to me.
The server stared. “Excuse me. Sir?”
Grandpa explained. “The colored sprinkles are called Kristin’s. How did you not know this?” Deadpan.
The server looked at us and smiled.
“One vanilla cone with Kristin’s coming right up.”
I beamed for days. He could fix just about anything.
A full time salesman, conversation came easy and comfortably. Everyone who knew him loved him, and he loved big. He was a lavish gift-giver and spender; quality trumped cheap every day. After he died, my grandmother cut expenses sharply and brought the budget back in line. Budgets are by no means evil, but it felt like a holy presence was swept out of the house when he died. The magic of gifts dwindled. He had been a “go-big-or-go-home” type of man.
Buppa became very sick my freshman year of college. Cancer ravaged him, and quickly. He passed away shortly before I turned twenty. It was the end of an era. He was my only grandparent who showered me with love. I could not see this clearly until he was gone.
I thumbed through Grandpa’s worn Bible after the funeral. He had placed check marks on the Bible pages he had read, and there were many checks. King David was his hero because as a King he sinned, repented, and was restored. Grandpa told me once that he could not wait to meet King David in heaven. Grandpa had not given his life to the Lord until after three of his five children were born. He told me once that he had been wild, and it had been a sad kind of wild. Empty. He gave his life to the Lord after hearing Billy Graham preach at a crusade in Boston. By all accounts, his life changed swiftly; drastically.
I started thinking about him today, as the 4th of July closes in. Grandpa esteemed the American flag, plus holiday parades and festivities. It seems impossible that he died over 28 years ago. I cannot wait to be reunited in heaven one day.