Papa

From the outside he sounded like a statistic, and not a very happy one.  Blinded in one eye at the hands of a father in a freak accident when he was 2 or 3.  School drop out.  Married at 17 to a woman 4 years his senior.  A father at 18.  Buried his firstborn son at 34.  A father four more times to only daughters.  

His daughters would tell another story.  The hardest working man that they knew, who could be relied upon to be the best manager at the grocery stores he managed for years.  A tough dad that demanded they work hard and do better than he did.  One who rarely showed emotion, instead showing love through providing for his family.  A man who was respected and well loved at his job, in the neighborhood, and at church.

His grandchildren would tell another story.  A loving, kind, funny Papa who wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was (good or bad) who always had coffeecake on the counter and circus peanuts in the cabinet for when they came to town.  A man who with one hand movement that we all know, would ask if you wanted to do his favorite past time, playing cards.  He would play at any and all hours, with whoever would join him, sticking to the four or so games he loved the most and would gladly teach anyone who didn’t know how to play.  We knew him to have the patience of a saint, a rite of passage in childhood was learning the seven hands of progressive rummy, which is a game I have yet to play with anyone other than him.

Just like I was with Nana, I am selfishly happy that I was the oldest grandchild.  I had him all to myself for nearly four years and he was vastly different grandfather than he was a father.  He would often reminisce with stories about me when I was a baby or a toddler.  Mom didn’t work when we were growing up, so she would spend several weeks down in North Carolina in the summers and he doted on us.  He took us fishing, taught us how to play golf, took us swimming in the lake, and brought us on his “paper route” in his rural neighborhood, which consisted of Courtney and I bouncing around the bed of his pickup truck while he brought newspapers down the long driveways of his favorite neighbors.  We would often accompany he and Nana at one of their timeshares in the mountains.  The smell of coffee and Busch beer will always remind me of their house because neither of our parents drank coffee or beer.

He and Nana came to visit me a couple of times in college and I was thrilled to have my grandparents come and visit.  They would take me out to dinner at one of his favorite buffet restaurants and would press a $20 bill into my hand when we got back to my dorm.  He would write to me on instant messenger, keeping up with the latest slang better than I would.

He loved holding his great grandsons, Chase and Ryder, when they were babies and would be quick to come into the house and take them out of the arms of whoever had them.  He was proud to be a great grandfather, and I am so blessed that he was a great grandparent to my kids.  One of Ryder’s first understandable words was “Papa” and there’s a reason for that.

He quit smoking cold turkey when his best friend died over 30 years ago, but had health issues from all of the years he was a smoker.  He had quadruple bypass surgery nearly 25 years ago, and then by some miracle, my sister, Mom and I were staying with he and Nana when he had a stroke almost fifteen years ago.  I still remember him giving us the thumbs up as he was wheeled out of the house.  At the hospital he cracked jokes with the nurses, played cards with us in the “visitor area” and nearly got us kicked out of the unit because we were laughing so hard.  Thankfully he didn’t have any lingering effects after that episode.  Because of his heart problems, he was an avid walker.  Rain or shine, the only thing that slowed him down was ice.  When his wife fell ill six years ago, he took over the role of caretaker and did it well.  After Nana passed away, he even learned how to cook.  And although I know it would literally kill Nana to hear me say this, he made a better macaroni and cheese than she did!

His work ethic never wavered in his 86 years.  We would all shake our heads with disbelief when he insisted that he continue to work in his 80s at a drugstore he had once managed.  His manager would often tell him that he was the best employee that he had.  He kept his home and later his apartment as immaculate as he did the stores he worked in.

He was a lover of country music, baseball, and Duke basketball.  He would religiously follow the sports teams of the colleges his grandchildren attended.  He would regularly stay up later than anyone else if he was watching the end of a game.  Despite his cleanliness, he would hoard magazines that he knew his girls and grandkids liked.

He would claim to be introverted, but when he moved into a retirement community after Nana passed away, he was known as the “cruise director.”  He was the ringleader of a group of 18 or so that would play cards every single day and he would get my aunt who lived down the street to print out copies of the rules for the games he played most often.  

He would brush it off and shy away from any compliments that anyone ever gave him, but he will be missed by anyone who ever knew him.

A month ago, we went down to North Carolina and I ran a race with my sister and cousin.  Papa’s hearing hadn’t been great for years, so when the boys were around, it was hard for him to focus and hear.  The second night we were there my husband brought the boys to their other grandparents’ house, so it was much quieter than it usual.  He was more “Papa” in those couple of hours than he had been in years.  He told stories about the people who lived in his community, made fun of my sister and beat us all handedly in cards.

When we dropped him off that night, I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him.  We had such a great night and so much fun and I am so grateful that is how I will remember him.  But I wish I had given him one more hug, told him one more time how much I loved him and let him know what a great grandfather he was and how lucky we were to call him ours.  

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30, really?

There are parts of my life that have dragged on and when I really think about it, it seems like I’ve been here an awful long time.  Then I realize that soon I will be thirty years old.  How did that happen so fast?  Not a teen.  Not a young adult.  Or a twentysomething.  Thirty.  It is still tough for me to swallow.  Most days I have to remind myself that I actually do have a real job and that this is my real house and I have a husband, and I did go through eight(ish) months of pregnancy and that really is my child.  I still feel like it is just me and my sister playing “house” and that one day I’m going to wake up and realize that I am still 13, not THIRTY!!!

If I were to think back to when I was 13 or even 18 or 20 when I thought about these types of things and wondered where I would be when I turned 30 or where I wanted to be when I turned thirty, then I would be pretty pleased with myself.  I’ve been happily married to my high school sweetheart for almost seven years.  We still enjoy each other’s company, make each other laugh and I can’t imagine being with anyone else.  We have a home that we both really like and we’re in the process of moving into our dream home (or as close to a dream home as you can get when you’re thirty).  We have a child that we couldn’t live without and a dog that makes us happy.  We both have jobs that we really love (95% of the time, which isn’t bad at all).  We both even work for great companies in the area.  We have been to a bunch of really cool places.  We both still have our health and there really isn’t anything I would change.  So I don’t know why I am having such a tough time turning 30.

Everyone keeps telling me that their 30s are the best.  Eventually I will come to accept it.  I keep reminding myself that any day on this side of the dirt is an accomplishment whether I’m 10 or 100.  Until then, I’ll enjoy the last couple days of my 20s (and they really are numbered).

November 5th

I realize that this is a little late as I would have liked to have posted this on the actual date, but today will have to be the day…

1998:  At the regional cross country meet in Newport News park, I have the whole thing planned out in my head.  I am going to walk up to the starting line and tell the boy that I have been fawning over for nearly a year that “yes” I will be his girlfriend (after he had asked me in a note two days earlier) then kiss him on the cheek.  Instead I shyly walk up to him and say “yes” and he kisses me on the cheek.  It is official, I am dating Brad Sorgen.

1999:  We celebrate our anniversary by going out to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town where Brad presents me with a gorgeous yellow gold dolphin ring.  We then go to see a movie and hold hands the entire time.  Although college is looming, it isn’t something that we are thinking about much, yet.

2000:  Brad is on a cross country scholarship at Radford and I am figuring things out at Virginia Tech.  We aren’t really long distance, but aren’t really in the same town.  He gets us a hotel room for the occasion and we went to a nice Italian restaurant in Radford which had such heavily garliced food that if we weren’t 18, we wouldn’t have been able to be in the same room together.  We have a very rare night together with no roommates and it is nice to hang out just the two of us.  College has had its challenges, but we’re coping for the most part.

2001:  Brad and I go out to dinner at the fine dining restaurant on campus.  It is a Monday night, so we can only do so much, but we still get dressed up and have a nice meal together.  He’s at Tech now, we even have a class together, and it is so nice to be able to walk to his dorm to see him.  We still don’t spend every waking minute together, but now if we want to have dinner together, he’s just a ten minute walk away and in my carless existence, that’s something to be thankful for.

2002:  Tuesdays are our busiest day of the week.  I have classes from 12pm until 10pm with only a 45 minute break to get dinner.  I try to get through the day as quickly as possible, being so excited with giving Brad his gifts and being able to breathe after I was done with our last class of the day which we had together.  I have been getting weird comments all day.  One girl told me that my room looked so cool.  Another person asked Brad some strange question on our way up to his dorm room after class.  Five minutes after we got up to his room, he gives me something he has written and when I look up at him, he has gotten down on one knee.  Back at my room, my door is decorated by one of my residents, the entire room is full of streamers, confetti, bridal magazines, flowers and balloons.  We are going to get married!

2003:  I have Wednesdays off, so I spend most of my morning working on a scrapbook and getting all of the pieces and pages bound.  We celebrate by going to a Japanese restaurant and the bartender comps our drinks because we tell him it is our anniversary.  I wear my engagement ring with pride and can’t believe that we’ve already been engaged for a year.  Graduation is ahead of us, neither of us have any job prospects or have a clue where we are going to live.  We are enjoying our last couple of months of college and lack of responsibility.

2004:  Brad is gone Monday thru Thursday every week for his job.  We are living together and have adapted to his crazy work schedule.  I am working for my dad’s advertising agency and spending evenings and nights to myself, so we really look forward to the weekends.  We go out to dinner to celebrate our last anniversary before we get married in April.  We choose The Melting Pot and when the waiter brings our tray of dessert, there is a wrapped present on it.  It is a beautiful diamond pendant.

2005:  We are in Blacksburg for the game against Miami.  It is one of the biggest games of the year and we are trying to recreate the same exact game experience we had two years earlier when we crushed them.  We meet my sister there and crash in one of our friends’ rooms.  We spend the weekend visiting our favorite Blacksburg haunts and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  We lost badly, but we still have a fantastic time.  We are newlyweds with a new house and limited time together, but we’re doing ok.  I enjoy my free time and Brad enjoys his job.

2006:  I sleep in, wake up and read the paper and enjoy a cup of coffee, then we run errands to the bank, Costco and Best Buy because Brad has saved up enough gift cards to purchase an Xbox 360 and he spends the entire day playing on it and figuring it out.  He makes us enchiladas for dinner and we have a relaxing Sunday.

2007:  Brad leaves early in the morning to head to Philly, which is where he has been working for months and will probably continue to work for years due to so many contracts in the area.  I’m working at a new place.  Our agency closed over the summer and now I’m on the selling side of what I used to do.  I spend the day attending our sales meeting, going out to lunch with one of my new coworker friends, coming home, fixing dinner and finishing reading a book.  We’ve been discussing getting a dog to keep me company while Brad is on the road and to see if I can keep something with a heartbeat alive.  We’ve settled on a Westie, and we are slowly starting our search for one.

2008:  I sleep in, opting not to work out because I was up late the night before.  As usual I’m running late and Brad is out of the door a whole ten minutes before me (typical).  He’s working down the street from our house and is only gone two months out of the year, rather than every week.  We have a dog named Foster who we completely dote over.  After work we have leftovers for dinner, take Foster for a walk and enjoy a glass of wine.

2009:  Brad is out of town and will probably be out of town this time of year for as long as he works at his current company because there is a huge trade show going on at the end of October through the beginning of November.  I don’t mind it though, I spend the night picking up mac and cheese and wine from Target for dinner and watch a movie I’ve been wanting to watch and thoroughly enjoy watching with Foster curled up next to me.  We’re starting to talk about trying to have a baby.  The baby bug has bitten me hard, and although I want it to be a stress free process, it’s just about all I can think about all day, every day.  Maybe one day I’ll be more excited and not so worried.

2010:  Brad’s parents pick me up from my parents’ house and bring me to the hospital in time for me to feed our week old baby.  He was early, so he’s still in the hospital, so I spend every waking moment up there with him.  It is the first time they will be able to hold him and they are both ecstatic.  I’m extremely frustrated because Chase keeps having bradycardia episodes, which is when he forgets to breathe when he’s eating.  I feel like I’m suffocating my own baby.  This is not a good day, but the nurses keep threatening me that he’s going to be discharged soon.  I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I can hold him whenever I want to with no tubes, no wires and no monitors.

2011:  We’re spending the weekend in North Carolina with my grandparents.  Nana is not doing well.  She was diagnosed with leukemia this time last year and she’s been having less good days.  I don’t want to think about this being the last time that we see her, but that day is coming sooner rather than later.  Today Chase decides to start walking.  Not going one or two steps, going more like 10 or 12.  It is quite a sight to see, and he is proud of himself.  I am so happy that Nana gets to see him walk for the first time.  When I talk to Brad later that day I wish him a Happy Anniversary.

Brad, thank you for 13 glorious years.  Thank you for always being the one thing I can depend on.  For being my rock.  For loving me despite all of my flaws.  For being my shoulder to cry on.  For always keeping me smiling and laughing.  For being a fantastic father and blessing me with an equally fantastic child.  For these things and so much more.  I look forward to the next lucky 13 and beyond.