Remembering Paw Paw...

Five years. It has been five years since we lost Paw Paw, and yet, I still have trouble believing it. They say that time heals all wounds, but for me, the unexpected loss of my grandpa still feels like a fresh gash across my heart. It hurts as much today as it did that day five years ago, and I still have trouble believing that there is a world without him in it.

Arguably, I should have seen it coming. When I saw Paw Paw at Christmas, he did not look well. He was slumped over in his favorite chair, and when we left, he felt strangely frail when I hugged him goodbye. In fact, I was so unnerved by that hug that I had a terrifying premonition that he might not be with us much longer. I was so upset by it that I had a silent cry in the backseat of the car, while my parents chatted in the front, unaware. I’ve never told anyone that.

A little over a week later, we got the call that he was being rushed to the hospital. Mom started frantically getting her things in order to leave and be with him, but before she could make it out the door we got another call. He was already gone.

The following week was a blur, marked by shock and overriding grief. What stands out to me was the disbelief in Grandma’s voice, as she told the story of his death over and over, to everyone who had not yet heard it, as if the act of repetition would somehow make it easier to wrap her head around the loss. It never got easier to hear.

Paw Paw was the first person I have lost in my life, with whom I was close. My uncle, Doug, passed away when I was very young, and did not understand the nature of death. My great-grandmother, Big Nana, and two of my great-uncles had passed away when I was in high school, but I did not feel their loss as acutely as I did with Paw Paw. My bond with him was much stronger.

What I remember most about Paw Paw, was how loved he made me feel. With so many other grandchildren, it would have been easy to get lost in the fray, but Paw Paw always made me feel special. Whether it was the little songs he would sing to me; the trips we would take to Dairy Queen, just the two of us; the little projects he would create for me out in his woodshop in the garage; or the way he would call me on my birthday and sing me “Happy Birthday,” and I would sing “Happy Half-Birthday” to him and vice-versa, he always made me feel like he was making a special effort, just for me. They were all simple things, but they were so important.

Maybe five years is not enough.

I know that much of my family is out there reading this, so now I’m turning things over to you. What is your favorite memory of Paw Paw?

My cousins Trista, Danielle, me, and Aimee with Paw Paw visiting New Salem.


  1. So much. I remember so much. "More room out than in." "Are you going to the movies? You're picking your seat." A few of my favorite sayings. I miss his smile the most. It remains one of the most genuine smiles I have known. I remember when he got an email address and he would send me emails. Just one liners that always made me smile. Or a perfectly timed email when I was going through a rough time. I remember when I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant and not very happy about the timing. He gave me a pat and told me it would all be okay. He still loved me. I wish I was the type of person that could show their love. I hope he knows how special he was to me even though I probably never expressed it. It's a fault that bothers me to this day. I remember my last conversation with him. I called to tell him and grandma I was having a girl. That was January 4th. I remember rubbing his hand in the ER after he was already gone, thinking it was impossible. I loved those stickers he used to give us at Christmas time. I remember wearing them on my jacket. I am on the library board with a man that reminds me of grandpa. Something about his smile. I think of him often. I talk to him when I'm having a rough day. I talked to him during all 3 child births, particularly while I was scared to death getting my epicural. Wow, how I miss that smile!

  2. Yes, that was rambling. And that should say epidural. Thanks, Haley, for giving me the time today to remember him.

  3. I think what Grandpa did best was make everyone feel like they were his favorite.
    I loved listening to him sing his little songs, how he called me Dan-yell-e-o, how he made "M" for Madelyn out of a dollar (which she still has) and how he always had a joke and never knew a stranger...
    I too, remember hugging and kissing Grandpa goodbye at Christmas feeling that it was our last time. My regret is that I didn't hold on a little longer. I don't know that it ever gets easier.

  4. P.S. What in the hell was I wearing??? What year was that?

  5. Now, I don't look so hot myself...BUT I did wonder what was up with your grandma inspired shirt! I have no recollection of the trip.

  6. I asked Mom what year it was, and she couldn't remember. Based on my hair, I'd say it was sometime in the range of 1991-1994.

  7. Grandpa always had lots of great sayings. One of my favorites was every morning when I woke up and came out, he'd say "it walks. it talks. it crawls on its belly like a reptile." Guess I don't look so hot when I wake up in the mornings!!