On March 29, 2012 we lost a beloved member of our family. Our Poppy, our Mr. Lew, our G.
Poppy had an amazing life. He would have turned 89 this August. But he left us too soon. As my uncle said, however, “his shining example of how to live and love will be with us forever.”
Poppy may have had many years behind him, but he was still young. He had played 18 holes of golf the same day he had his accident. He played golf almost every single day. Poppy went on vacations, went to parties in his local retirement community, and came to every single one of his grandchildren’s graduations and weddings, no matter how far away. He was an amazing man and he will be missed by every single person in our family.
Poppy leaves behind 3 children, 5 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. I am so glad that E had the opportunity to meet him a few months ago. It was such a special time (even though she screamed almost the entire time because I woke her up!) but it was amazing to see this man have so much love for her, 3 generations younger.
I know I will have lots of stories to tell E about Poppy when she gets older. Below are some of my best memories with and of him:
We used to go to his house a lot when I was younger because we lived relatively close. Nana and Poppy’s house, to me, seemed huge. It was a ranch style home with most of the bedrooms on one side of the house, then the living room, the kitchen, and a bedroom towards the back end. The front and backyards were big. They lived near a lake (maybe it was a pond, but it seemed huge to me then) and we would go there often to feed the ducks. I remember him telling me that the girl ducks were the “ugly” ones and the boy ducks were the ones with the pretty green-blue necks. I remember thinking that that was silly because I thought the boys should be the ugly ones because, at 4 or 5, I thought real boys were the ugly ones (I know my dad probably wishes that had been my thought well into my teens, too).
I also remember the fruit trees they had in their backyard. I don’t really remember which kind of fruit though. I think maybe one was an apricot tree. I remember playing back there like it was a huge forest and I was lost like Sleeping Beauty or whatever other Disney princess I loved at that point. I remember going Easter Egg hunting back there, too. That was hard for me because I was the youngest, but it was probably the best place for the Easter bunny to hide eggs.
They also had a huge pool in their backyard. I don’t remember this but I apparently (they can’t prove anything!) tried to push my mom into the pool but I kind of went in with her. With my broken arm in a cast. I remember being in the bathroom of the back bedroom with my Aunt Carol and my mom drying off my cast with a blow dryer. I do, however, distinctly remember practicing jack-knives, can openers, cannon balls, and dives off the edge of their diving board though. And then swimming into the spa and feeling the hot water sting from the cold of the pool. There were always leaves in that stinkin’ pool though and Poppy would have to fish them out before we went in even though I don’t think any of us kids really cared.
Poppy and Nana had a magic piano too, which is now in my parents house. You put a song sheet in it and press the pedals on the bottom, and the piano plays the song on the sheet for you. I remember as a child sitting on Poppy’s lap and being mesmerized by the keys moving and the songs coming out. I think when I go back to visit my parents the next time I’ll play a song or two for him.
We spent Christmases up there with Poppy, too. That’s when I really remember him playing the piano a lot. He would play for all of us kids. I also remember being outside with him on Christmas Eve one year and distinctly hearing Santa’s sleigh bells in the distance. That was such a magical night for me and its something I hope I can recreate for our kids one day.
Every time we went up there, Poppy would make me Shirley Temples. He would only use the juice from the cherry jar, and he’d plop a few in there for me to fish out when I got to the bottom. That was my favorite part. I still drink Shirley Temples to this day, and they were my favorite non-alcoholic splurge drink when I was pregnant. So I guess E will love them too.
Poppy loved to dance. At my brother’s wedding I remember him sticking by one of the bridesmaids and dancing with her pretty much non-stop. Like I said- ladies man. When he was lying in the hospital my mom called and told me that his feet kept moving and that he was getting ready to go dance the jitterbug with Nana in heaven.
Poppy was a proud retired Navy pilot, too. Before my husband left on his first deployment on a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), we took him down to the ship in which my husband would spend his 7-month cruise (please, if you saw pictures of this deployment, it was more Royal Caribbean than USMC). He was so proud to show his military ID to the guard at the gate, and his face was beaming when the sailor saluted him. It was so great to see. Poppy loved being on that aircraft carrier- the USS Peleliu. You could see the pride stemming from him as he reached familiar territory. I’m so happy we were able to provide him with that experience.
I don’t know if I’ve ever told any one in my family this before but I’ve had dreams about each of my grandparents after they died. My dad’s parents have been gone for some years but I only recently dreamed about them, in the last year or so. I was in the commissary when I saw my grandfather. It was as if I had seen him every day and I asked him how Grandma was doing. I don’t remember his exact words but he said she was happy and comfortable, and glad to be home. He also said he was happy to have her with him. He walked over to the bakery section and I followed but then he was gone. I was young when my Nana died, only 4 or 5, but I still remember the dream I had several months later. I dreamed that I was walking with her in a village, with small houses lined up on each side of the road. The houses were up on stilts. She kept telling me that she was ok, that she was safe, that she was in a good place, and not to worry. I haven’t dreamed of any of them since, but I know it was their way of telling me that they were ok. So I know Poppy is ok too. And I have a feeling my dream of him will be either on a golf course or at his old house. Probably a golf course.
Poppy, you left us too soon. Your absence in our lives is unexpected and heartbreaking. But I guess death always is. We take great comfort in the fact that you are now in Heaven, dancing away with Nana. She has waited so long for you to come home to her, Poppy. Dance away, with your Beefeater gin in hand. We love you.