Grandpa was a part of our family that was bigger than life...sometimes I think that he didn’t have to shop of the “Fat and Wide” man’s store (as he liked to call it) because of his stature, but because of his heart. He loved us so much, and was so proud of all that we did...and I wonder sometimes if he knew that all of us became who we were because of his influence.
Grandpa was a role model for us, and we learned by his example. I made a list of just some of the things I learned from him:
• Freely give hugs and kisses. Even if the kisses are full of whiskers and the hugs squeeze the breath right out of you.
• Remember people’s names, and use them. Grandpa once even introduced me to Dawn, the girl who ran the car wash that he always went to.
• Hole-in-the-wall restaurants are a good thing. Patty’s diner served up a mean breakfast for a good price, and always had good people to talk to. Our last meal before my family moved to FL from NY was at Patty's Diner with him.
• Enjoy good food. Eat everything grandma cooks for you. Get fresh corn and strawberries. Eat pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese. Keep a candy jar close (fill it with candy corn in the fall). Fresh fry cakes from Schutt’s (not Schutt’s!!) are the best.
• Sing. Sing often. Make music, any time.
• Be silly for kids. Kids laugh at silly, and kids’ laughter is important. I still smile when I think of him reciting, “Starkle starkle, little twink. Wonder what you is, I think?”
• Treat children with respect. I always knew I was important to him. And even when I saw him last week, he was holding entire conversations with my one year old, Gavin. Gavin would ask him a long question in baby babble, and Big GG would answer him back very seriously...and then Gavin would come back with another story. I really think they understood each other.
• Cheer your loved ones on. When I was maybe 11, I marched with my parents in the West Webster Marching band (they needed a cymbal player and I happened to be there and was big enough to carry them). I knew when we passed Grandpa on the side of the road because I could hear his voice carrying over the music as he yelled, “Hey Laurie!!!”
• And finally, be proud of your accomplishments. I think I witnessed one of Grandpa’s proudest moments when I attended his Murphy reunion in Canton, OH...when he was able to show off 4 generations of Meeches to his shipmates, melding together his accomplishments in the Navy with his family legacy.
Grandpa will always be with me, with us, because we keep his lessons in our heart.