Poppy

Here’s another trike shot for you… a picture of my grandfather on his tricycle somewhere in New York in the late 20s. See how Ya favors him?

And this is the outfit and image I want so desperately to duplicate with my little man.

I haven’t talked much on here about what my grandfather meant to me… it’s hard to put into words just how much impact one man can have on a life. I was his little bits. He kept a set of bears I crafted in nursery school on his wall for more than 20 years. The paper was faded beyond recognition of original construction paper colors, and the hands holding each other were slowly separating as the paper aged. Even after he passed, Mimi (my grandmother) didn’t dare remove the poor things without asking me if I minded.

My photos were the ones he kept in front of him on the wall behind his computer desk. And he spent hours reading, or creating and fiddling with computers and radios in that tiny computer room of his. His admiration of my pictures did wonders for the self worth of a girl who was constantly called “pudgy” by other family members and who was never much of a “pretty” girl in school. To him I was beautiful, and that withstands time far better than pretty, which goes away after youth.

He loaned me his SLR camera when I took my first real photography class in college. He listened to my panicked report that the camera was broken (it wasn’t, the mirror was locked up and I couldn’t see the images anymore – – and he found that funny). It is the same camera I was gifted as my inheritance when he was laid to rest in 2002.

But if I really considered what I inherited from this man I called Poppy, it is so much more. I inherited his snuffly laugh that resembles that of Hanna Barbara’s character “Muttly.” I’m pretty certain I also inherited his OCD – – it’s pretty easy to become absolutely devoted to some new hobby until I master it. I feel his spirit in Chi, who shares his inquisitive nature and constant quest for knowledge. I see glimpses of him whenever I look at Ya. I hope he sees the great grands he never met from his spot in Heaven.
I miss him more than I can adequately express.

He was my escape when things got hard, depressing, or bad in undergrad. A walk, a quick trip on the train, and a call for pick up was all it took to be “home” with Mimi and Poppy. And what a difference it made.
He rescued me from the side of the road when I had an accident on the Turnpike (hydroplaning my car into a tree while fighting traffic on a slick and windy off ramp).

This man traveled cross country in his sports car with me trailing behind in my hoopty – – a walkie talkie keeping tabs when he sped ahead and couldn’t for a brief moment see my car. With him, I saw the country – – and he, like my mom, loves to stop and leisurely explore. He settled me into the house so I could be comfortable in graduate school.

He and Mimi were the “Northern Elves” who traveled down the highway every Christmas time bearing gifts and great company for the holiday. And when we traveled north, I remember Mimi running out on Christmas Eve for a real tree which we decorated well into the night. I think it was them who promoted me from my “Le Clic” purple and yellow 110 camera to a cool 35mm.

He never missed a major event. High school graduation in Virginia. College in New Jersey (even though his health was failing and we didn’t know there was anything wrong). And I know he would’ve ventured back out to California for my Master’s if he could’ve.

And this was just the Poppy I knew. Before my memory, he was a scholar at the Tuskegee Institute. A proud fighter pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen. A prisoner of war who drew amazing sketches of the planes he saw overhead as he detailed his days in the German camp. A photographer. A reader (who could research how to do just about anything). An intellectual. An engineer. A gamer. An e-mailer. A HAMM radio enthusiast. An avid gardener (his backyard still boasts his compost mixer and I remember him sitting in a lawn chair with an umbrella and a flashlight watching for the pest that was eating his tomatoes). A motorcyclist. A sports car aficionado.

Because of him, I am.

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