I’ve been sitting on this for a while. I’ve saved and deleted several drafts of a letter not unlike this one, but I just can’t seem to put the words out right. I also never knew when it would be a “good” time to write to you – nearer to our birthdays, holidays, I don’t know. I guess it really doesn’t matter; you’ve been gone for nine years now. I last visited about five years ago, leaving daisies on the spot where we, the living, said our good byes. That warm June day, my cousin playing Taps, the harsh sound of the gun salute.
They were daisies because they had to be. Most people wouldn’t connect a flower with their grandfather, but I would think most people did not have someone like you. I remember the stories you told us about picking daisies in the fields on Staten Island with your sisters and friends from church, before you went off to war. When I see daisies I think of you. Did you know there were tears in my mother’s eyes when I told her I wanted daisies in my wedding bouquet? That I keep little daisy stickers on my things, like water bottles, in my car, on my desk?
I think a lot about what you’d think of me now. When you left, I was a stupid, annoying, awkward 16 year old. I would hope I’d advanced somewhat from that point. You just seemed to be able live your Navy Seabees motto “Can Do”, something I try, often stumbling, to do every day. I want to “Can Do”, too. You weren’t a famous man, you weren’t a rich man, you weren’t an educated man, but people loved you; you were a goodman. And you were good in spite of the hardship you faced: the Depression, poverty, war, working so hard for pennies, burying my grandmother young. You had this personality, a no-holds-barred way of being that drew people in. We had so many people at your funeral we needed a police escort and police to stop traffic for the procession to the cemetery.
People tell me that I’m funny. Sometimes. Alright, well, I try to be funny. You were so funny. You would grab my thigh, hard, and chuckle hard when telling jokes. You would do things like in that picture above, just because you could. The neighborhood you raised your children in had a sizable Scandinavian population, and they had (and still have) a Norwegian day celebration. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing you were supposed to do for the occasion, but it was the kind of thing you would do. The sense of humor I have I owe in part to you. Keeping my sense of humor, being funny, being fun is keeping you with me.
I just wanted you to know.