September 13, 2014

In Loving Memory of My Papa

My Papa & Grandma at my aunt's wedding circa 1975.
Don't they look marvelous.

I lay in bed just an hour after hanging up the phone with my mother. Just an hour after shedding tears on my husband's shoulder. Just an hour after hearing the news of my Papa's passing. Once my mind has quieted a bit. Once my brain has made its to-do lists...the appointments that must be moved, the teachers that must be notified, the outfits that must be found, the drive home that must be driven. Once I've flitted onto the topic of how to tell the children that their Great Papa has died...only to flit away again.

That is when the memories come.

I don't think of the last few years. I don't think of the older, more frail and more distant Papa I've visited of late. No, I think of My Papa. It is like slowly wandering through a photo album. I take my time. I linger with each image, each memory and the feelings it brings with it.

I remember my Papa as a big man. With a broad chest and large, strong hands. And a booming voice.

I remember holding those large hands and dancing with him. I remember balancing my little girl feet on his big man shoes and swaying to the music.

I remember him, important, behind his desk in his office at the business he owned, coming 'round the desk and swooping me up into his strong arms to say hello. I remember him holding me up so I could copy my hands and face on the copy machines at the office.

I remember witnessing his generosity to people all around him...tipping extra, helping people start their own businesses, showing a kinship with those less fortunate than himself. I remember him as a self-made man and a serviceman in every sense of the word: a navy veteran who served our country, a man who started his career servicing cash registers, and a man who showed his love for others through acts of service.

I remember him taking my grandmother's face in both of his hands and kissing her sweetly on the lips. I remember him eating all the delicious food she made and always complementing her on her cooking. I remember her saying, "David!" A lot.

I remember him doing a cannonball into the backyard pool.

I remember him yelling at the TV during University of Michigan football games. I remember him waking us up with their fight song blaring from the speakers. I remember him tailgating before football games...I can still hear his voice booming, "Go blue!"

I remember him pulling the big "M Go Blue" van into our driveway. I remember the van stuffed with presents at Christmas time. I remember him, hair disheveled, light brown slippers and track suit on on Christmas morning, clapping with delight over the presents we opened.

I remember him working shirtless in our backyard, helping my dad lay a brick patio.

I remember him mowing the lawn and raking and weeding and walking through his property checking on the fruit trees. I remember him up ladders and in sheds and with a pool skimmer in his hand.

I remember him in a sport coat and slacks with a drink in his hand surrounded by friends at a party.

I remember the feeling he gave me as a kid: the unconditional love and awe of a grandparent. I remember the bear hugs and the wet kisses. I remember so much.

Then I begin to imagine.

I don't know what happens when we die. I don't presume to understand. But the idea of being greeted by our loved ones who have gone before us brings me great comfort. So I imagine My Papa...who was also a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend...I imagine him being greeted as he crosses over. I imagine him as he was in mid-life, the way I really remember him. I imagine him taking my beloved grandmother's face in his big hands and giving her the biggest kiss. I imagine their old dog, Kelly, jumping on his leg, tail wagging, as he reaches down to scratch her head. I imagine him swooping his daughter, Sue, into his once-again-strong arms and crying with a heart so filled-to-overflowing with joy. I imagine all the hugs and handshakes and pats on the back. I imagine him surrounded by love. And then I imagine him filling everyone in on all that they've missed. I imagine him showing pictures from his wallet of the great-grandkids to my Grandma and telling stories of everyone's successes and struggles. And, finally, I imagine him walking through the fruit trees at the back of his property on a beautiful summer's evening as the sun begins to set. There is no pain, no old age, only peace and contentment. And he is that big, broad-chested, strong man with the booming voice once again.

I share this in loving memory of my most amazing Papa, David Hoffman. You will live on in our hearts and our memories and our children. I love you.

David J. Hoffman
July 19, 1925 - September 9, 2014

A Navy Man

Papa with his daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter

Playing with his great grandson

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