Our family lost a great man.  My Papa Bob passed away peacefully in his sleep after leading an amazing life.  Growing up, Papa was really the only grandparent I knew.  My Nana passed away when I was two and my dad's parents lived in Tennessee.  All my memories are wrapped up in this one man.  

 I remember as a young girl finding out that he played football for Nebraska when in college.  I was in such awe--I didn't know anyone that played for a college football team (until I met my husband).  I think my love for football started with Papa.  He was always watching the game with a bag of peanuts and Hershey kisses nearby.  My mom would tell me of growing up and going to watch the high school football games under the lights every Friday as a family.  Sounds like the perfect way to start the weekend to me. 

 The house were we spent the most time was in an old neighborhood.  All of my childhood memories (mostly of holidays) are nestled in this house.  All 7 of us cousins probably driving the parents crazy, just being kids.  I remember when he put his house on the market and my sister and I visited for the last time.  We went about the yard taking pictures of all our favorite spots to somehow keep them closer.  The metal clothes lines where we always climbed.  His beautiful gardens full of vegetables and flowers.  His peach tree.   The gate that I tried to climb from the front yard to the back yard where I sliced open my tummy and still have the scar to prove it.  The row of pine trees out front where we would hide when cars drove by.  The brick flower beds and outdoor grill where he made the best and biggest hamburgers served beside a bowl of his potato salad. 

Something about that neighborhood and the stories my mom and aunt and uncle told of growing up make me smile about how "it used to be."  Everyone knew everyone.  All us grandkids could walk across everyone's front yards down to Helen's house (our favorite neighbor) to play her player piano, sneak bubble gum flavored soda, and ring the bells hanging by her door.  I remember roller skating down the old, cracked sidewalks, under the huge trees thinking about my mom going down those same sidewalks as a little girl.  She always told us how Papa would come on the front porch and whistle when it was time to come in.  I think of that often watching my kids run around our property, playing with the neighbors, begging to play just a little longer when we call them in. 

That house had a certain smell.  You probably know what I mean, how old houses smell.  It comforted us as soon as we walked in.  Papa's eyes would always light up when we arrived (playing "how many more turns?" in the car on the way) and fill with tears when we said good-bye.  Our last morning there on every trip was coffee and dunkin donuts. 

There were always the Thanksgiving and Christmas smells too.  The turkey roaster was brought out to the front porch, the tangle of the orange extension cord making it's way around all our "beds" on the living room floor where us cousins would lay and talk until we fell asleep.  Papa and Uncle Steve would tip toe over us before the sun rose to go goose hunting. 

At Christmas time he always hung those huge Christmas lights around the front window.  And his tree always had tinsel...each piece carefully placed on.  It was the fanciest tree I ever saw.  Then we would all get dressed up and go downtown to the midnight church service.  We always felt so special getting to stay up late.  I can still hear the organ and see the candlelight.  I remember one service in particular when they asked the grandparents to stand up and be recognized.  The pride covered his face as he looked down the pew at all his grandchildren. 
 As our family grew and cousins got married, and babies were born, he continued to tell us how proud he was of us.  I remember how he welcomed Ryan into the family always shaking his hand and Ryan calling him "sir" and he would always say "thank you for the sir!"  He was always interested in how are garden was doing and asking about our tomatoes and offering advice.  I think his eyes almost twinkled as we told of our struggles and we would go look at his perfect, huge, red tomatoes bending over the vines.  Another of his prides and joys.

I also remember the look on his face when he came to the hospital to visit Mason.  He could never remember his name, but latched on to his middle name of Robert and always called him Little Bob.  Papa gave him his first football. 
Family was so important to him.  He came to every graduation, wedding, and birthday that was possible.  He would sit around telling stories (one of his favorite things to do...often the same one over and over) of serving our country, playing football, his kids growing up, the tire shop and going hunting.  We never tired of hearing them.  Even as his mind started to go, we would all just sit and listen.  I remember my last visit with him this summer.  My sister, my cousin Jeri and I sat with him outside his nursing home on a beautiful summer day.  I don't think I've laughed so much in a long time.  He talked about the squirrels, our wedding rings, football, the staff poisoning his food, and many other random things.  He didn't make a bit of sense, but he seemed so happy.   
I can't imagine the ultimate joy he's experiencing now, at home with his Savior and free from the pain and confusion he must have felt as his mind slipped away.  Reunited with his earthly bride and looking into the face of Christ.  I look around at the generations of people in my family that he cherished so much and can't help but be in awe at the legacy he left behind.  So many unique faces with special gifts and talents that all carry a part of Papa.  We love you!

1 comment:

Mindy said...

Friend, this is beautiful. I love your photos (such big smiles!) and your memories. They are precious and important and I love that you took the time to write and share them. <3 Love you!