18 years ago I took a shower and when I got out my Papa Joe was gone. It was winter break from school and we had been traveling back and forth between where my grandparents lived and home. We had come home that day and mom stayed behind to be at the hospital with my grandpa and my aunt. My mom called to tell my dad and then my dad broke the news to the three of us that our grandfather had died and then we watched a magic show on tv in my parents’ bed.
I had a rough time at the funeral. I remember kind of hyperventilating while crying. And I remember my cousin who was 6 at the time handing me a nickel to help me stop crying. I think I may still have that nickel somewhere at my parents’ house. There was the wake and the next day we would come back and say our final goodbyes and then proceed to the funeral. When we left the wake my brother who was 6 at the time looked into the casket and said “see you tomorrow grandpa”. My mom’s first cousins created a circle of love and that night we all sat at my grandparents’ house and watched old videos and hung out. It was a sad time but there was so much love.
After he died I wrote down a bunch of things I remembered about him that I didn’t want to forget. Sadly I think I’ve lost that notebook but I vaguely remember some of the things I wrote down. I remember one of our last interactions when he was still able to walk around on his own. I was sitting in the kitchen and he walked past and said “that’s my girl eating her mac and cheese”. He would push me around in a laundry basket. He wanted to teach me to polka dance and I regretfully never let him. He always made sure I had Papa’s cheese. I have no clue what kind of cheese it was and I have yet to come across it in the 18 years since he’s been gone. So today on my drive home I will crank up some Frank Sinatra and reflect on the time I spent with my Papa Joe.