It's been a tough week around here. A tough month really. You probably read in my last blog post that Erik's grandfather, who everyone calls Pap, had been sick. Unfortunately, just a few days after arriving at Myrtle Beach last week, Erik, Willow, and I learned that we needed to head back to northern Virginia to say goodbye.
We have all been saying that it felt so fast and so slow at the same time. Willow's birthday was May 26 and that weekend, everyone was here having fun and Pap seemed great. It doesn't seem right that just the next month he'd be in the hospital, that grandma would be spending weeks by his side there, and that we'd say goodbye to him not long after. Fast. But agonizingly slow too.
While it's hard to lose someone you care about so quickly, we're all grateful for it. Pap was a man of great pride and he never wanted to be weak or taken care of. A drawn out illness would have made him miserable, so because of that, it's a little easier to bear the suddenness of it all.
I married Erik six years ago now. I met his grandparents a few years before that when we were in college. So I didn't have the opportunity to know him as long as the rest of his family of course, but I'm so grateful for the amount of time we had.
I remember when Erik told me his grandparents were coming to visit for the weekend at JMU. I was intrigued because I didn't know a lot of people whose grandparents came to stay for a whole weekend at your college. He said, "no no, my grandparents are cool... like, you can actually talk and have fun with them!" Haha, and he was so right. We had a great time that weekend. One of my very first memories of Pap is when we went to JMU's arboretum and he walked through the gardens taking tons of pictures of all the flowers. Then he saw a big hill and told Erik he was going to race him to the top of that hill. Erik said, "no, pap, no let's not do that!" But it was too late, Pap was outta here!
That same weekend, after dinner at Outback, Pap wanted to get ice cream so we all went to Bruster's. We arrived and everyone ordered and I was very confused because Pap didn't get anything, but it had been his idea. Turned out, he couldn't eat sugar, he was just determined that WE should eat ice cream because he wanted us to enjoy it. That would not be the last time this happened!
Personally, what was so heartwarming to me is how quickly Pap accepted me as family. He must have known Erik and I were going to be together for the long haul before we even did. He and grandma gave me a really beautiful graduation gift, a necklace that I wear all the time and always think of them both when wearing. Pap always talked with me and wanted to get to know me. He made me laugh every time he told everyone I made the best pancakes around when I just followed the Bisquick instructions haha. And he always, always gave me the biggest hugs and told me he loved me before he said goodbye. I'm the kind of person who can't easily say words like "I love you," and I'm not sure why, I guess it's just a vulnerable phrase. But it was always so easy with Pap. He was such a genuine person. I knew he wasn't just saying that because I was Erik's girlfriend/wife so he should be nice. No. Pap was the kind of man who said exactly what he meant. Always. It's one of the admirable traits that he passed on to Erik.
I'm thankful that Erik is so much like his Pap. They share a great many traits including their genuineness, their love for telling stories, instantly connecting with people around them in a way I so admire and could never do, their humor, their stubbornness, their pride, their incredible work ethic. It's just no wonder that the two of them shared such a special relationship.
And that's what I'm most grateful for. Erik did not have an easy childhood. He did not have a horrible childhood by any means. But it was hard. He had a uniquely difficult relationship with his father that was compounded by his dad's unexpected death. Before and after that life-altering event, Pap was Erik's role model. Not that his dad wasn't also a role model, because he was in many ways. But Pap is truly the one Erik wanted to be, the one he had to tell when he was going to ask me to marry him, the one he wanted to bring to his office and tell about his promotions. The one whose approval meant so much.
So I'm thankful because I have a great husband, Erik has a great job, and Willow has an amazing daddy because Pap taught him do all those things. I'm really sad that Willow won't get to know him, but through these stories and everything Erik is of him, she will. We will miss him terribly, but you can't lead a greater life than he did or leave behind a greater legacy than friends and family who will miss you so much.