Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Putting the Great in Great Poppey

Dear Ian,

You are such a lucky boy.  When you were born, you had three great grandparents here to welcome you into the world.  Your Great Grandpa Brooks, while not actually present at your birth, was told quickly after you arrived, and was thrilled to hear the news of a new generation.  Your Great Grandma Graves and your Great Poppey Davis both got to hold you within minutes of your grand entrance into the world, and it was such a special moment for your Daddy and me.  And somewhere around here, I have a picture of you, your Daddy, your Grandpa Brooks and your Great Grandpa Brooks on your first Halloween.  Another great memory!
You and your Great Poppey and Great Grandma Graves

Sadly, your Great Grandma Graves passed away shortly after your first birthday, and then your Great Grandpa Brooks passed a little after your second birthday.  Daddy and I are both thrilled with the fact that you got to spend some time with both of these amazing members of our family; the memories of them holding you and playing with you are precious to us.

Your artistic contribution to Poppey's room
And you are lucky in the fact that your Great Poppey Davis has been able to spend the first almost four years of your life getting to know you and play with you.  Unfortunately last Thursday, Great Poppey suffered a stroke.  He is still with us, but at this moment, he is unable to speak, and he is very weak in his right arm and leg.  The doctors also think that his vision may have been affected a bit, too.  It has been hard to see him like this;  his usual rambunctious commentary, feisty attitude and sometimes grouchiness has been silenced.  He is able to hear us and turn his head, though. And the other day, I took you up to the hospital with me, and he reacted the most strongly I have seen since this whole thing started.  You got him to give you a couple of high fives, he listened as you told him about your class, and then you drew him a picture on the white board in his room, and I took a picture of it and showed it to him.  He responded with a positive sort of sound, and that was just great to hear.

We're not really sure at this point how well he will recover.  He will have more tests today and tomorrow to figure out the next course of action in his care, so we are all waiting on those phone calls for results.

In the meantime, I am remembering a bunch of funny stories and moments that I don't know if he will be able to share with you as you grow up.  To think that you may not hear them really upsets me, so it will be my job to pass on those memories to you and hopefully your future generations, too.  Most of them aren't terribly important, but some are really funny, and they are all special to me.  For example, when I was about ten years old, he taught me his lyrics to the theme of Popeye the Sailor Man.  They are as follows:

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man
I live in a garbage can (every one knows that part, but the rest is his...)
I like to go swimmin'
with bow legged women,
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man!

I didn't figure out the lyrics until I was about 15 or so, and once I got it, I just cracked up.  Slow on the up-take, that's me!  

Then there are other funny stories like how I used to play beauty parlor with him.  Back in the 80's, Great Poppey rocked a hairstyle called the comb-over that sorta masked the fact that he was losing his hair.  You grew hair on one side of your head longer than the other and "combed it over" so it created the illusion of a lot of hair.  Poor Great Poppey.  He had seven-year-old me brushing it out, marveling at it's length, putting rollers and curlers and hair barrettes in it...  Again, somewhere around here I have photos of that, and they are hilarious.  

When Uncle Brian and I were little, Great Poppey managed a Scotty's Hardware Store in Punta Gorda, Florida.  When we would spend a couple of weeks out of the summer with them, he would let us play in the store.  I remember one day we somehow found a pricing gun, this little gun that shot out price tag stickers, and we made stuff like hose couplings cost $1,000 and lawn mowers were stuck with 50 cent tags.  To this day I wonder if anyone ever noticed them or paid attention to the stickers.  I think the employees there knew it was us just goofing off, but we had such fun with that price tag gun. 

Great Poppey lived during World War II and told us stories of riding his bike through Perry, New York during air raid drills, and he told me about how his community rationed things like rubber and nylons.  He dated your Great Grandma Davis during a time when cars had rumble seats and one night, he and Mr. Spencer, one of his good friends, hid Great Grandma and Mr. Spencer's date (the future Mrs. Spencer) in the rumble seat as they went through a toll booth on the "pike."  He liked to tease me, and one of our favorite past times was picking on each other.  He would tease me after I had had a good game of bowling that I had bowled my weight, and I would pick at him about his lack of hair.  He and Grandma Davis attended countless football games and competitions to watch me twirl, and tons of soccer and football games to watch Uncle Brian and Uncle Gary play.  He ate crazy birthday cakes that your uncles and I made him, as we were usually at their house in the summer on his birthday.  Once he even sliced into one with a toy sword of Uncle Gary's, and that thrilled us!  He watched us put on ridiculous re-enactments of musicals like Mary Poppins, and even one of Gone With the Wind with Uncle Brian dressed as Mammie.  (yes, I have photos of that...)  He took us to Disney, Medieval Times and a cool place called Boardwalk and Baseball that doesn't exist anymore, but it was great. 

I have memories of finding sharks teeth with him at Venice and Inglewood Beach, the smell of the pipe he used to smoke and crawling onto the pullout couch with him and grandma when they would come to visit us at the house on Meridian Road.  

The thought that you might not be able to hear about these things from him makes me incredibly sad, and I am hoping and praying with all of my heart that he will be able to regain his speech so you can ask him about some of the crazy things I have mentioned here.  Or you ask him to share stories that are even more important that the silly memories I have collected.  Just hearing him say hi to you would mean the world.

For now, we will continue to visit him in the hospital, and we will help him fight through this tough time.  We will also just simply hold his had.  Because as hard as it is for us to hear him so quiet, I know it is even harder for him to be able to see us and not be able to tell us he loves us.

We're so lucky to have him, and I'm glad you've been able to share in his life.

I love you,

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