On Losing My Grandfather Two Weeks Before My Wedding

I will readily admit that I did not know my Papa as well as some of his other grandchildren. I’m the Yankee grandchild, the daughter of his firstborn daughter who disappeared off the grid for a while and surfaced in Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, my visits with him were limited by distance, by money, by age. But I know that he loved me, and I believe that he was proud of me.

What became evidently clear at his vigil and funeral was that my Papa was a helper. He went above and beyond to help anyone—blood or not—in any way that he could. My mother and I benefited greatly from having such a kind and generous man in our lives. He helped make college a possibility for me. He always had good advice and a shoulder for my Mom—even when she didn’t want it. He was a rock. Not only was he a rock to our family, but to his community and to his friends.

He knew what was coming better than any of us ever could. We thought our rock was invincible. And in some ways, I kick myself for not seeing the signs.

Knowing that the odds would be extremely slim that Papa would be able to trek to Pennsylvania for my wedding, Dan, my Mom and I took a road trip to visit him for my 30th birthday. My Mom stayed at the house, reading while her Dad—who was probably sicker than I realized—napped in his chair with the television volume up high. Dan and I explored Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City, joining the family for dinners at the house, sharing our stories of museums and the zoo. Papa, in his motorized chair, showed Dan and me his shop and his collections of tools and all things useful. I saw a picture of Lebanon Levi from Amish Mafia that Mom and I had sent to him in his office.

We left on my birthday. I wanted so badly to see Memphis that I had planned a more extended route back. Instead of spending another day with family, I wanted to see Sun Studio. Papa understood my wanderlust; he’d seen the city before and understood why I was interested. If I’d known then that it was the last time I’d see him, I would have stayed as long as I could. As we took family pictures, he put his arm on Dan. He told him it was up to him to take care of his girls.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I cried silently. I tried to think about the next time we came back to visit, picturing dinners with Papa at the head of the table, making jokes, picking on Dan.

Now, at home in Maryland, this all seems surreal. Did I really just spend three days and four nights in Oklahoma? Did I really say goodbye to a man who, despite a physical barrier of miles, helped shape the person I am today? I think he knew, when we left the last time, but he didn’t want me to miss Memphis. He wanted our trip to be full of good experiences, of love, of reflection.

I am so proud to call this great man my grandfather. I’m determined to continue to make him proud, to carry on his legacy as someone with a big heart and willingness to help others. My wedding day will be bittersweet without him there. But I know I am marrying someone who he trusted to take care of me, and I will carry him in my heart as I always have. There has always been distance; instead of miles we’re separated by mortality, but it doesn’t mean there is any less love in my heart. I know he loved me and that his love for his family is eternal. That is what will keep me smiling as I walk down the aisle next week.

My Papa, always in my heart.

Welcome. Here’s some navel-gazing about my job.

I work for a liberal arts college. I should add here, and probably in an about page, that the views expressed in this blog are not the views of the college—though in some ways, they are informed by my experience at the college.

You see, I attended Washington College from 2003 to 2007. I graduated into a terrible economy, held a variety of jobs, and somehow—with a bit of luck—ended up working at the College in 2011. My liberal arts education shaped me as a person, and it instilled in me a passion for learning that will never go away. If I could collect master’s degrees like Pokémon, I would. So far, I’ve only got one, and it’s in secondary education. Before I got the job at Washington College, I was planning to become an English teacher. Instead, I ended up in College Relations and Marketing, an office at the school that makes videos like the one you see above, promoting our annual Birthday Ball event.

In my job I get to be creative. I get to work with an amazing team. I get to learn and grow and strategize and help others do the same. Working for a liberal arts institution is almost as awesome as attending a liberal arts institution. Some days it can be trying, just as any job is, but for the most part it’s the perfect environment for someone quirky who loves to think strategically about communicating with audiences (that’s a fancy way of saying I like to think about the internet).

When I was a kid, I wanted to work for an ad agency. I know, that’s kind of a weird job to pick—most kids probably opt for doctor or astronaut. So I’m not working for an ad agency, but I am marketing a product I firmly believe in. At 30, what more could a girl ask for?