Thursday, August 14, 2014

Grandpa The Street Fighter

Today would have been my Pop Pop's 96th birthday. A gentle soul, he coached all six of his kids in swimming and worked as a meet official as well. My Pop Pop always told outlandish stories, too. It was hard not to love the man, and even harder not to take his passing personally.

A World War II Navy man, he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in his platoon of squids. I never knew much about his war adventures, but he mentioned in passing he was there when the atomic bomb was dropped. My Pop Pop would mention he was in the war, but the other details of his mission remained a mystery. Once, my brother Wendell interviewed him for a school project where he spoke more in detail than he ever had. Pop Pop felt the war was over, life went on I suppose.

Before the war, my Pop Pop had attended the University of Pittsburgh. While a student there, he had been an engineering major and quite a boxer. Once, when I was in high school my parents were away on a college visitation trip with my brother, and Pop Pop babysat. While he was watching us, I left my math book on the kitchen table. When I woke up, my Pop Pop was doing math problems. I was stunned. "Pop Pop, we have a television." I said gently. Later, my mom explained that as someone who was originally an engineer, my Pop Pop was not only good at math, but loved it.

I hate math with every fibre of my being and still do. My brother Wendell tolerates it, like the drug addict relative out of rehab and needing money yet again. As for my sister Skipper, she is good at it but they only have a casual relationship. Pop Pop, while originally an engineer, ended up taking over the family insurance business. It was because the war was over, he was recently married, and had a child on the way. This was the ready job he needed.

My Pop Pop was the type who never spoke about himself, but rather spoke about the accomplishments of his grandchildren instead. Whether it was Mindy and Meara and their success as dancers,one with City Baller and the other at the university as a dance professor respectively. Or my cousin Martin and his art. Then there was my other cousin Timmy who almost went to the Olympics as a skiier. Lest we not forget Skipper and Wendell and their success in the science and medical fields. Cody and Blaze, my younger cousins, excelled in baseball and soccer. And then there's my newest cousin Valery.

My Pop Pop was the first person to buy my book, and read it in a single night. I offered to give it to him as a gift, but he insisted on paying for it. His last outing before he passed Thanksgiving Day was my book signing.

What I did not know was that my Pop Pop was so skilled as an athlete. I had seen him swim, and he played tennis well into his 80s. However, I never knew he was a boxer. This is the video my mom and I took of my 95 year old grandfather demonstrating his moves.

RIP Pop Pop, you were da man.

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Available through Barnes and Noble/Amazon

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