I remember reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when I was little. And in that book, Charlie’s grandparents lived with him. They took up residency in a bed in Charlie’s living room. I remember thinking how cool it would have been to have my grandparents living in my house like Charlie did. I mean not in a bed all hours of the day…that would have been awkward when my parents had company over. But you know, like they had their own room in my house. I could come home from school and there they’d be. My grandma would be cooking or trimming her rose bushes and my grandpa would be watching his 49ers or fixing something or playing the organ that would have also been in my house if they lived there, because my grandpa could play the organ like no one’s business. Alas, Roald Dahl did not write my life and they never did live with us. But, I consider the relationship I had with them a very close second to what Charlie experienced.
My grandparents were such an integral part of my life. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood involve them. Holidays, summer vacations, band concerts, plays, my engagement, my wedding, my baby news. I knew I could count on them always. They were there cheering me on and celebrating with me.
And now, I consider it an honor and a blessing to be here today to help cheer on and celebrate with my grandpa. My grandfather has been a steadfast presence in life. His generosity knows no bounds. He possesses strength and calm that both comforts and encourages. He is knowledgeable and wise. He has an air of cool and suave that rivals any member of the rat pack. He challenged me to be fearless. He taught me to dive into the deep end (both literally and metaphorically), he let me drive his car when I was still a few years from 16. He took me on adventures through beautiful country. He played dolls with me (and even made me my own, gorgeous doll house), he read with me, he listened with a smile as I played, what I can only assume, a painful rendition of hot cross buns on my flute. He encouraged me to sing. He took pictures and video and laughed until he cried with me. He is a giant among men, and I am humbled that I get to share in who he is…that I get to be his granddaughter.
I’ll end with this. My husband always pokes fun at me because I am constantly taking pictures. He tells me that I should enjoy the moment and not worry about being behind a camera trying to capture it to remember later. So, I try to take memory snapshots. These are moments so precious that I know a camera would not be able to truly capture the pure emotion of the experience. One of these moments was when my grandpa held my son (his great grandson) for the first time. It was a bittersweet moment, as my grandma was not able to share in the experience. But sitting next to my grandpa as he held my son is a moment in my life I will carry with me until I take my last breath. It was a moment of pure happiness during an otherwise tragic time in the Rick family. It was the moment I looked at my grandfather’s quiet strength and resilience and knew that we would carry on and continue to take adventures and make memories.
So today, I wish you a happy 85 years, my dear grandpa. Thank you for being an ever present member of my cheering section. You are more wonderful to me than you’ll ever know, and I love you beyond forever. Happy birthday.