Three years ago, I said good-bye to my Pop Pop. Today, I watched my daughter receive awards for showing up, being helpful and achieving her goals. It makes me sad (again) that they never got to meet. It makes me grateful (again) for every single moment. This is a tribute to my Pop Pop that I wrote last year:
In your room, there’s a dresser that my Pop Pop made once upon a time. It was wooden, then painted white, then banged and bumped a lot. Now it’s got a fresh coat of purple paint and it will soon be adorned with our beautiful hand-painted knobs.
I’m not even sure how I inherited it, but I love that this dresser, this thing that Pop Pop made with his own calloused hands, is here. I love that you get to touch it every day. I love that it is bumped and scratched and imperfect because so was he. And so are we.
I remember the day that I told Pop Pop I was going to adopt. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I got was a blessing (loud enough for everyone in Mimi’s Café to hear) and one year of persistent prayer for you—the great-granddaughter he would never meet.
I remember the day we said goodbye. “I love you,” he said, “you take care of that great-granddaughter for me (your newborn cousin). And yours will be here soon.”
Six weeks later, you were.
My Pop Pop didn’t leave a lot of stuff behind when he died. He did leave a dresser. And a lifetime full of lessons learned the hard way. These are the lessons I learned from my Pop Pop—the lessons I want to pass down to you, my daughter. This is his legacy.
I hope you know hard work—rising before dawn, pushing your body and mind to the limit.
I hope you know perseverance—seeing a project through to the end, no matter how hard it turns out to be.
I hope you know ingenuity—figuring out a way to make things last a little longer than everyone else thinks they should.
I hope you know honesty—saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
I hope you know joyful abandon—playing ring-around-the-rosy in the front yard when you are much too old for such foolishness.
I hope you know independence—making your own choices and learning how to take responsibility for them.
I hope you know community—having a chat over ham and oysters and choosing to find common ground with different folks even if it takes a little time.
I hope you know grace—hearing the truth that you’re not perfect, but you are loved and accepted just the same.
I hope you know faith—choosing to pray and believe for something that you may never actually get to see.
And most of all, my beautiful girl, I hope you know Love— the Love my Pop Pop knew.
Love that is big enough to fill the empty spaces.
Love that is strong enough to cover the bumps and scratches and imperfections.
Love that, in the end, is the only thing that matters.