My maternal grandfather was a pretty big deal. He was a 6’3″ “Dennis-the-Menace” turned football star turned businessman. In the 1950’s, he had a successful football career that began as a player at Bucknell University. But to everyone who knew him, he was so much more than his resume. He was witty, charismatic, intelligent, and quick-on-his-feet. Yes, he could be rather intimidating with his unique sense-of-humor. Above all, he was a loyal husband to his teenage-sweetheart, my grandmother, for over sixty-years. He was a proud father who worked his butt off for his family. To all of us grandkids, he was just our ‘Pa.’ I remember bringing the Wall Street Journal into my first grade class for “Show and Tell.” There was Pa, on the front page. We were always so proud of him and his biggest fans. He had such unique relationships with all 8 of his grandkids.
I visited Pa one of the last days he was awake. He was in the ICU at Yale fighting an infection that his body simply couldn’t fight anymore. After years of battling dementia, he was no longer the same “Pa” we all knew. Somehow, there was one thing that remained constant- his humor and charisma. Even as he was unable to drink through a straw anymore, he was still cracking jokes with the nurses.
During our last visit, he tried to sell me to several cardiac residents while they did their rounds. Like, literally sell me. “I will even pay you to marry her,” he teased as I sat in the corner laughing. You never could take Pa too seriously or be offended by his humor. He truly was hilarious.
I remember my mom urging me, “Tell Pa what you’re doing tomorrow!” I rolled my eyes in an attempt to hush my mother. Daughters always have a subtle way of doing that. I finally told Pa, “I have a date on Friday with a Bucknell-guy.”
“A Bucknell football player,” he insisted.
“Well, no. He was a Bucknell tennis player.”
He nodded, smiled, and said, “I’d prefer a football player, but that’s good enough.”
It was so ridiculous that I was telling my grandfather about my upcoming Match.com date. (Insane, right?) Pa passed away one week after my date with Ben.
I forget sometimes that Pa and Ben never actually met. I know they would have bonded over so much more than their shared Bucknell pride. Visiting Bucknell a few weeks ago for homecoming was such a special experience.