Today is your birthday.  If only you knew how much I miss you still.

I tried to write you this letter a few weeks after you died, but each draft I wrote focused too closely on my own pain from your passing, overshadowing the brilliant life I intended to honor.

Today I think I can finally achieve what I set out to say.  Grief is interesting like that.  After the shock and excruciating sadness, it settles into an achy feeling that detours in the back of your throat.  That sore swallow you take as you struggle with the tears taking formation at the ducts.  It’s still there, every bit of it, except, years later it also accompanies an ability to smile when recollecting the memories. 

I like to think I’m pretty capable of portraying certain emotions or illustrating a scene through my writing.  I find it difficult, though, to box you up in a neat little package to present to someone who didn’t know you.  Nobody would get it.  Nobody would understand that when I talk about what an exceptional grandfather you were, or better yet, what an inspiring person you were to many, I mean for them to understand that I emphasize these points with exclamation marks.  Big, bold letters.  A blazing, neon sign. 

You left an impact.

Not only on myself, but on everybody’s life you touched.  You had a spirit about you that made even the surliest of store clerks smile by the end of the transaction.  Your manner was never rushed – you found the joy in stopping and chuckling at a goofy child as much as you found the patience in churning homemade ice cream by hand for your grandchildren.  There was never anything that couldn’t take a backseat to enjoying the present moment.  And even as I type this, I can still see you with one hand in your pocket and your lips on the verge of a whistle as you wandered away from the group, reading about each animal’s habitat at the zoo. 

I have the fondest memories of spending weeks during the summer with you and Grandma in Ohio.  A trip or two to the zoo was an unspoken plan.  It was just your thing and I think I can speak for all the grandchildren when I say the Columbus Zoo will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

You were the person who taught us grandkids how to play poker.  I clearly remember sitting on the brick patio, pretending a pretzel stick was a cigar and smelling the honeysuckle that grew up the old bell by the grill as we learned Five Card Stud.  You had your tumbler filled with Dewars and Kyle and I had our special Kiddie Cocktails made with Sprite and cherry juice.  I used to get so excited for “Totty” time. 

You were also the person who had 3 walls in his workshop devoted to the grandchildren’s height measurements.  After the warm welcomes, the first thing the grandkids always wanted to do was to have you measure them in your workshop.  The heights started to peter out by our teenage years, but nevertheless, we’d stand proud while you stuck the yardstick on top of our head and mark the wall. 

The golfing range, feeding the horses, the Bogey Inn.  I have so many memories tucked away in safe keeping so I can one day tell my own children how special my grandfather was.  And while you are no longer here with us, your presence in all the lives you touched, truly made each one richer.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa.  Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying a glass of Dewars with a cup of carrots and celery.  And a golf game on the tube.

I love you,

Katie Beth