It was a Saturday afternoon, right when the Camarillo breeze started to creep its way through the trees, when my dad pulled up in front of my grandpa’s house. We made sure not to park in front of the mailbox—that was one of grandma’s biggest rules—and then we open and shut our doors, carrying in some groceries, the mail and most importantly, lunch, up the pathway to the front door.
I stood on the porch, peeking through the black mesh of the screen at my grandpa sitting in his chair, as I waited for my dad, who was a few steps and a free hand behind me, to open the door. That’s when I saw a sign taped to the wall.
“Ding dong!” I yelled.
“Well, hello there,” my grandpa said with a laugh. “I see you like my new doorbell.”
“I love it,” I said as we walked in.
Growing up, I was told by many people—frequently—how much they loved my grandpa.
Howard is the best.
Howard is my favorite.
Your grandpa is truly one of the best men I’ve ever known.
As I got older, these compliments were passed down to my dad.
Your dad is the best.
Your dad is my favorite.
Your dad is truly one of the best men I’ve ever known.
And then to my brother.
Troy is just the best.
Troy is my favorite.
Troy is one of the best guys I know.
While nice to hear—albeit annoying at times because, like, don’t you know how great I am?!—it wasn’t new information for me. It was no secret I was growing up surrounded by incredibly strong, kind and caring men. To be honest, it kind of ruined me. Because if I know there are men like them around, why waste my time with anything less, you know?
My grandpa taught my dad who taught me (and my sister and my brother) how to love. How to care for people and make them feel like they matter. He taught us by reminding us that we matter.
In college, when I studied abroad in Australia, my grandpa sent me postcards and letters, giving me a sense of home when I was scared and needed it most. And to this day, whenever we get together as a family, my grandpa always goes out of his way to ask each and every one of his grandchildren (and children and great-grandchildren), “What’s new?”
When I think of my grandpa, I think of love. Of joy and fun and safety. I think of the mini donut holes he always had out on the kitchen table when my family moved in with him and my grandma.
I think of going to Dodger games, of eating hot dogs and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and of the time my cousin Spenser was wildly booed for popping a beach ball that was being passed around, because my grandparents knew the usher and didn’t want her to have to chase it—which he never did again, by the way.
I think of sitting around in he and my grandma’s living room with one arm leaning on a cousin, the other on an aunt or an uncle, and my legs propped up on my brother’s shoulders as we all sat close and opened presents on Christmas Day.
I think of going to the mall during the summer to walk around, just so we weren’t cooped up in the house, and how occasionally we would convince grandpa to buy us a blizzard from Dairy Queen.
I think of bowling on Thursdays, watching golf on Sundays, and eating pizza on Friday nights after sitting in the bleachers at my parents’ softball game, learning how to keep score next to my grandma. (When someone would ask who was winning, my grandpa would either say “good guys” or “bad guys”—monikers I still use to this day.)
When I think about these things, it’s no wonder why people go out of their way to tell me how great my grandpa is. But oftentimes I wonder if they really know how great.
It takes a special kind of man (and a badass lady partner in crime) to raise the kind of family I grew up in. And it would be one of the greatest successes of my life to find a partner worthy of our traditions and to raise children with as much kindness and compassion as was given to me.
I can only hope that one day I have grandchildren looking at me the way we all look at you, grandpa—and I hope I’ll stick my tongue out and make them laugh the way you’ve done my whole life.
We’re so very lucky to have you by our sides—and there are a lot of us, so that’s a lot of sides, but you still manage to make each one of us feel just as important and cared for, and I pray we make you feel that way too.
Happy (one day early) birthday, Grandpa.
P.S.- Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone I’m your favorite.