I’d been thinking for a while that it had been too long since I’ve written either of my children a letter. For those of you who have been reading my blog (or my facebook notes) for the past few years, you might remember that this was at least a monthly occurrence with Zoe that dwindled a bit when I was pregnant with Finnegan and then pretty much stopped completely once he was born. At least, the public postings stopped. I’ve continued writing my love letters to my children - notes about how much they’ve grown or changed, letters about significant events in their lives, etc. But the last few months had seemed especially hectic and I had stopped writing even the private ones. I had resolved to start again a few weeks ago. And then TWO weeks ago happened and spinned our world upside down and I could barely think in complete sentences to try to explain to either child what was going on.
So on our drive to Texas two weeks ago today, I decided I would write a letter to Zoe and Finn. I’ve put it off til now.
My Dearest Zoe and Finnegan,
This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written to you because I do so with a heavy heart. This is not one of my love letters to you where I tell you funny anecdotes about the silly, cute, smart things you do on a daily basis. This is sad and it breaks my heart - but I feel like I need to write these words while they are still fresh because I want you to understand the loss we have experienced. So here goes...
Two weeks ago today, we were starting our long journey to San Antonio to be with Grammy Donna and Aunt Sadie. On October 5, 2010, your Grandpa Rick passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was 60 years old and it was entirely too soon.
Despite your young ages (Zoe, age 3 and Finnegan, 22 months) it was important to your Daddy and I that we try to explain (to at least Zoe) what had happened. We told you that we wouldn’t get to see Grandpa Rick anymore. We explained that he had gone to “adult heaven”, which is right next to “Doggy Heaven” so he is able to visit with Buffy and all of our friends and family that are watching over us and waiting for us with him now.
I think one of the hardest things for your Daddy and I is knowing that you both really did not have enough time with Grandpa. We didn’t have enough visits and we always thought there would be more time to fix this. We imagined that one day we’d move back to Texas and you’d see Grandpa all the time. It makes me sad that you will not know him like we did. I thought if I could write to you now about Grandpa that you could read this later and feel closer to him.
So I’m going to begin at the beginning.
I knew I loved your Daddy within a month of us dating, but it was really a couple months later when he took me home to Texas to meet his family that I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I think we’d been in Grammy and Grandpa’s kitchen for less than an hour and I felt like I was a part of their family right away. Both of them opened their home to me and made me feel welcome. I laughed with them and listened to old stories and saw what great people they were and I felt like I belonged. I watched your Daddy interact with his parents and I saw how much they all loved and enjoyed being around each other.
I wish I had written down all the funny stories/good times so that I could tell you about all of them.
I do recall a toast... no, a PRAYER that first night where Grammy referred to me as your Daddy’s “lover” (one day you will understand and you will be a little embarrassed that I am telling you this) and despite us not quite living together, mentioned us having children someday and we all laughed so hard (Grandpa included) that there were tears in our eyes.
I remember that your Grandpa Rick took us on tours of downtown San Antonio, the Riverwalk, and the Alamo. He knew and loved history. If he saw tourists who looked like they needed directions, he would help them. I seem to recall he even stopped everything he was doing to give a guided tour to “strangers” once. But your Grandpa Rick never really met a stranger. He was your friend the moment you met him. He had a way of welcoming everyone and making them comfortable. He liked to talk and he liked to listen. He had a great laugh and a smile that lit a room.
Grandpa Rick hated cheese, but liked pizza. He grilled a great steak. I used to eat raw oysters with him.
On one visit to Texas, I stayed with Grammy and Grandpa for a few days while your Dad went on a camping “Bachelors weekend” at Leaky. Some people might dread staying with their boyfriend’s parents alone, but I had a blast with them. We hung out in their kitchen and out on the patio. We walked around downtown and spent an afternoon cleaning out a storage unit. We went to a pub and your grandparents got me drunk on Guinness (when I had a half full glass, Grandpa would order another for me and then tell me to drink up so the 2nd and 3rd wouldn't get warm) and asked me if your Daddy and I were thinking about marriage (we were, but I didn’t tell).
On one of Grammy and Grandpa’s visits to California, (the visit where they met Nana & Baba for the 1st time and we celebrated my 28th birthday) they came to see me and Daddy in our closing performance of West Side Story. In one of the last scenes, Mommy & Daddy got to dance together - seeing us on stage dancing, brought tears to your Grandpa’s eyes.
Your Grandpa was a strong man. He was optimistic and realistic and he liked to solve problems. He used to say “I don’t get sick. I make people sick.” He also made people laugh, especially me. He was a big John Wayne fan and he loved his state, Texas. He and I had a running “competition” between California and Texas. I think we always looked forward to telling each other what was better about “our” states.
When your Daddy called Grandpa to tell him we were getting married, your Grandpa said “Well, I figured.” It was no surprise to him. I think he was very happy that we decided to tie the knot in San Antonio and I know he enjoyed playing host to all of our guests. The morning of our wedding, Grandpa got up early to give your Aunt Alison and Aunt Sharon a tour of the Alamo. There were all sorts of things that needed to be done to get ready for the reception that evening, but he was more than happy to share some Texas history with some Californians.
Grandpa Rick was so excited to be a grandfather. He loved you both so much and was so proud of you. He was so great with both of you.
- When I was about 7 months pregnant with Zoe, we had to visit Texas for an emergency. Grandpa Rick made sure I rested, ate and was taken care of. I was carrying “very precious cargo” and he told me it would be OK if I went ahead and gave birth to Zoe in Texas.
- He visited California with Grammy Donna for each of your first Christmas’.
- The 1st time he changed Zoe’s diaper, he put it on backwards.
- He gave Zoe the Spurs hat off of his head because she wanted it.
- He sat with Zoe and watched hours of Baby Einstein while Mommy and Daddy went to movies and Grammy Donna, Nana and Baba were sick (he just shook his head that all these people were sick but him - remember, he didn’t get sick).
- Zoe was Grandpa Rick’s “Zo-Shmo”.
- When we visited San Antonio just before Zoe’s first birthday, he was so happy to show off his grand-daughter. Zoe, he carried you on his shoulders at Fiesta and took you to your 1st parade. He made you laugh big belly laughs.
- When he came for Finn’s first Christmas, he sat up with Finn for at least two nights so Mommy and Daddy could get some sleep. For Grandpa, Finn fell asleep and stayed sleeping for most of the night. Grandpa was magic.
- He helped Grammy, Mommy, Daddy and Zoe make a gingerbread house. We have a video of it and I’m sure you will see it many times growing up. That was a good day. It felt good to be together for the holidays.
- He had mastered the diaper changes and bottle making and both of you were so happy and comfortable in his arms. I imagine you must have felt very safe and loved when you were with him.
- He made you both homemade fries and burgers (that you loved) and he always promised he’d make you more when he saw you next. He loved getting to talk to you on the computer and you both made him laugh and vice versa.
I wish I could tell you more stories. I wish I had taken more pictures of each of you with him. I wish I had pushed for us to make the trip to Texas more. I wish there had been more time and that you each would have your own special memories of your time with him.
Your Grandpa Rick called me “Babe” and he made it a point to give my shoulders a good squeeze when he saw me. He was the best father in law I ever could have hoped for and I felt so lucky to have him in my life. He really was like a father to me and I always looked forward to seeing him. He loved your dad so much and was so proud of him and I know that he was proud of me and loved me too. He was easy to talk to and supportive of our dreams. He encouraged us to do things, (like travel and work abroad) even if they scared us a little bit. I always felt safer knowing I was a part of Rick’s family.
As much as it breaks my heart that he’s not here with us now, that you won’t grow up with him in your lives... I feel like you both will be watched over by him. And Mommy and Daddy promise to make sure you grow up hearing stories about your Grandpa, about how much he loved you and how proud of you he was (and is).
I love you both infinitely,