My Papa celebrated his 84th birthday this month. You would never be able to tell that he is 84 years old. This past July, he traveled with my Aunt and her three boys to Ligonier and met me and my kids at Idlewild for the day. After a day of riding rides and swimming at Splash Lagoon, I was dragging. As we were headed out of the park to our vehicles and as he pushed Whitaker's stroller, I thought "here I am in my 30's and I don't have nearly the stamina or good posture that he does."
Papa was born to first generation Italian Americans and spoke only Italian until he started elementary school. He has a rich and amazing past that is the ultimate illustration of the American dream. His father started a business in 1927 and my Papa works there to this day with his two sons and his nephew.
His work ethic is phenomenal. Not only does he work at the company, he comes home at night and plays with my young cousins and works on the farm, tends his garden and takes his grandkids on tractor rides.
It is rare that I am at a loss for words, but when it comes to describing my relationship with my Papa, words are hard to find. I love him in a way that I love no other. His generosity, love and support has allowed me to place him on a pedestal as any fabulous grandparent should be. On the rational, adult side of me, I know he is not perfect. He can get grumpy (and that has nothing to do with age), he isn't the most politically correct guy on the planet, and he can be impatient - but that's not the man I've ever experienced. The man I know would do anything for one of his grandchildren. For the first 16 years of my life, my sisters and I were the ONLY grandchildren in the picture. For 16 years, I basically had he and my Grammie to myself. And they did ANYTHING for us.
When my Papa bought a farm, he stocked it with animals for us to have. In fact, if I remember correctly, he bought us a little pony before his new house was even finished and he kept the pony in his garage until they moved up to the farm. Edna was a little black and white pony and we adored her. Did we get her because we asked for her? Nope - we got her because my Papa thought "the girls" as we were known, would get a kick out of it. Most of everything he did was because he thought we'd get a kick out of it. And he is still doing it to this day. At his age, no one would blame him if he sat back, relaxed and let others do for him. Because of a variety of circumstances, the majority of my cousins are actually my kids ages. In the last 8 years, my Papa has restocked the pond on his property, takes the kids fishing, turned the horse stalls into an aviary for pheasants for my cousin who is fascinated by birds, and a variety of other projects, "because the kids will get a kick out of it." When I bring the kids in for a visit, he never fails to pile as many grandkids as he can in the truck or on the golf cart wherever they want to go. A frequent request is, "Papa, can we go see the cows?" and the trip to see the cows turns into a trip to see the cows, then down to the pond to feed the fish and then to see whatever other surprises he has for them.
It thrills me that my kids get to have a small taste of what I experienced as a child when we go back to my hometown to visit. Every good and pure memory I have has something to do with my Papa.
We had Whitaker baptized this past weekend and he drove the two hours to our house to celebrate with us. He gave up a quiet afternoon at home alone where he could watch the Steeler's game in peace, to visit with us because his family is that important to him. It is such an honor to be loved that much.
I could go on and on about the memories I have . . . he bought my sister and I Jordache dolls
took us to Disney multiple times
and gave us everything we could have wanted (and most of things we didn't really even need). Without his help, I would not be where I am today.
I fear that he does not know how much I appreciate everything he has done for me. Not a day goes by that I do not offer a prayer of thanks to God for the gift that is my Papa. And I pray every day that my Papa knows I do not take for granted his hard work and generosity. I hope that he is as proud to my Papa as I am that he is my Papa.
For there is no greater Papa in the world! And I think all of these kids would agree!
Please pass the jelly!