Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dear Papa Joe,

Yes, the picture above is of Mt. Rainier. I took it, and I feel that now is the perfect time and place to post it, for a couple of reasons. Some might say this is now your view of the very mountain that watched over you during your entire life. Perhaps it is some kind of poetic justice. But aside from that thought, as I took this picture, you happened to be sitting right next to me. It was taken early in the morning on our way to Reno; the very trip I mentioned in the note I wrote for your funeral service.

Just for the record, here is that note:

I will never forget my most recent trip to Reno four years ago. Not just because it was a fun weekend. And not because it was when I first learned to play roulette. I'll never forget it because I got to go with my grandpa. I'm not sure I ever told you, but I had a really great time on that trip. Aunt Nean and Mark were there, they remember. It always amused me to see your eyes light up whenever we stepped foot into a casino together. That look, it turns out, must be hereditary.

When I was little, I thought my life would abruptly end the day you were watching the Seahawks on tv under your new headphones. Apparently, I had decided it was a really good idea to max out the volume because I couldn't hear the game. Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the time I was only turning up the volume of your headphones. I can still remember hearing the distorted sound of football commentators blasting out of them from across the room. You yelled something incoherent and quickly threw them off your ears. I ran upstairs faster than I had ever run before, and hid under a bed for about an hour.

When I finally got up the courage to come back downstairs and face you again, I was surprised to find that you weren't mad at me at all. (I would have been.) I think it was then I realized that no matter how tough and reserved you seemed to be, you always kept a soft spot for us kids. You loved each of us in our own way, and we all came to know that.

At the risk of sounding cliched, you were our family anchor; our rock. You kept us all on a straight path and told us exactly what you thought. Honest to a fault. Even to the very end, you kept your quirky sense of humor and unfaltering strength. I will always admire you for that. And I believe I speak for all of us grandkids when I say, we love you and we'll miss you Papa Joe. Rest well.


I feel like I was able to sum up most of what I wanted to say in that note, however, there is another thing that has been bothering me recently. I often observed just about everyone in the family (with very few exceptions) making fun of you behind your back before your health faded. They would make comments about you, assuming you couldn't hear them. They would roll their eyes and sigh. In my eyes, they seemed to treat you less like the man they cried for at the funeral... more like an annoyance; a burden; an unworthy test of patience. Perhaps I don't know the full story, but I always felt like this was a classic case of people not appreciating what they have until it's gone. They should have understood how lucky they were to even have a father, a husband, a grandfather... at all. Many people out there in the world never even had that privilege.

I know they all loved you, as you loved them. And perhaps that was rarely, if at all, communicated from either side while you were still here. But it still bothers me. I just hope everyone in the family has finally learned to appreciate those around them while they can.

But enough about all that. We all miss you, and it will never be the same without you. I hope wherever you are now, you're at peace.

Goodbye Papa Joe.

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