Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Papa Joe

Tonight as I drove home and then spent the evening with Jennifer and the boys I couldn't stop thinking of my Papa Joe. When I was young I called him grandpa but then cousin Natalie came along and he was from then on known as Papa.

One of my earliest memories of Papa was when he drove me from his home to Thrifty's for a scoop of ice cream. It was summer vacation in CA and I loved it. It is one of the few memories of it just being he and I in his ol' Ford pickup. A memory I'll cherish forever.

He was a proud man. He'd tell you all you want of how he "raised himself since he was 3", or about his time in the Navy during WWII, or when he worked for Southern Pacific on train derailments. His formal education ended when he was young but he was a student for life. To this day there are dictionaries in my grandma's home that has his book markers and handwritten notes from the words he taught himself.

He was a family man. He was married to my grandma Mary for decades, raised 7 children, had numerous grandchildren, and tons of brothers, in-laws, nephews, nieces, and friends that were like family. He was by my uncle Steve's side while ill and never really stopped mourning but if there was a chance to get out of the house and enjoy fellowship he was ready to go. He loved always but wasn't afraid to occasionally bust your chops. He spoke his mind but he had no favorites and treated everyone fairly.

He was a man from the Greatest Generation. He'd clean his plate so well he'd joke with grandma saying it was good enough to put back in the cupboard. He was also well known for having a green thumb and stock piling seeds of any fruit or vegetable he just got done enjoying.

Today would have been his 87th birthday and although he is no longer walking this earth I feel his presence often and especially thank him for continued examples of strength, faith, fidelity, trust, and unconditional love.

He was a man among men and one the world could use more of.

Happy Birthday Papa Joe. I love and miss you.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TN the Long Distance Cyclist

This past weekend I had one of our cars serviced and when it was ready for pickup I decided to walk to the auto shop instead of loading up the boys in the truck and having my wife drive me. Since we had been mostly indoors that morning I convinced my eldest to join me. At first he was reluctant so I told him that he could ride his bike. At 5 years old, riding his bike is one of his favorite things to do. Of course the first thing out of his mouth was, "Can we go to the park?". I said, "no we are going to go on a different walk". Walking and riding bikes has become a common routine lately but with the park not being an option he returned to declining my request to join me. I then offered him a prize of frozen yogurt if he joined me and he was finally hooked.

At first I questioned my decision to "bribe" my son to go on a bike ride with a treat and wondered how that might backfire in the future. Eventually I decided that if he rides his bike the entire way then he absolutely deserved the frozen yogurt treat I promised. He didn't know it yet but this would be his longest ride yet.

So TN and I set out on our "walk". I packed a backpack with a couple of waters, my keys, and wallet and we left after kissing mamma good-bye as she worked to get our youngest to take a nap. TN grabbed his bike and helmet from the garage. I assisted with the helmet buckle and as always he reminded me to be careful and not pinch his chin. "Remember daddy when you pinched my chin when I was little?" "Yes", I said. I can still hear the crying I caused the one time his little chin skin got caught. I felt so bad I had caused him so much pain. This time, like each time since, I made sure my hand was wedged between the buckle and the skin below his jaw. If anyone's skin was going to get pinched it would be mine.

As I walked away from the house I turned on the RunKeeper app on my phone and tried to keep up with TN. I wasn't sure what the distance was between our front door and the auto shop but I knew it would take about 45 minutes if we completed it without stopping. We had less than two hours before the garage closed and not knowing how tired TN would get along the way it kind of worried me. I already pictured myself holding him in one arm or on my shoulders while also trying to carry the bike. Boy did he prove me wrong.

We made our way down the busy street near our neighborhood and over the railroad tracks (he hadn't ever seen train tracks from a bridge before). We continued on the sidewalk the entire way and he'd advance far enough to make me nervous and I'd yell "STOP!". He'd step back on the pedals, the back tire would fish tail a bit as it marked the cement, and he'd wait for me until I caught up with him. Every so often he'd see a lady bug, butterfly, and even a lizard, or two, or three. The little nature stops became more frequent and I reminded him that the garage was going to close soon and the yogurt prize would only happen if we got the car before they closed.

We finally made it to the shop on that sunny, windy afternoon. We approached the front door and TN propped the tiny little bike against the wall and asked if he could take off his helmet. I said, "of course" and I helped him remove the gear and underneath was a hairdo only a helmet and sweat could make. We went in and paid for the car and as I waited for my receipt and key I realized that I needed to turn off the app and noted we had walked/cycled 2.72 miles in approximately 45 minutes. I was impressed with my son's accomplishment that day.

As we exited TN asked if we could put the bike in the car to go to the yogurt store, he wasn't entirely aware or certain that he wasn't going to have to ride his bike again to the yogurt shop, and I said, "yes, we can drive to get the yogurt". We put the bike in the trunk and he happily hopped in the car to rest in his car seat.

I was proud of my little boy that afternoon and I was sure I told him such. As we drove to the yogurt shop I glanced at him in the rear view mirror a couple of times, he noted my staring at him, and "looking eye to eye" I told him "that's the longest you've ever ridden your bike, ever!". He grinned that grin he does so well and I continued to praise him for completing the ride and not complaining once. I find those moments are the best and as I grow as a father I do my best to seize them and make sure I praise my sons for their accomplishments.

He may not remember that day or the outing he and I shared but one day I hope he has a chance to read this and if nothing else he'll know how proud I was of him at that moment in time.

He enjoyed ever little bit of his chocolate & vanilla yogurt topped with chocolate chips and two shark gummy candies and I was perfectly content awarding him his prize.

RunKeeper map of walk & cycling adventure
RunKeeper Map & Metrics