I remember when my dad was living with you and my sister and I would come over often to visit. There were 3 things you would make: meatloaf, noodles and tomato sauce, and goulash. To this day, I cannot recreate your goulash recipe no matter how hard I try. You always use to complain about there being too much or not enough chili powder, but it was always perfect. Better yet, it made for great leftovers when fried.
2. Teaching me fire safety
I'm only half serious on this one, but your need for a controlled fire has always been amusing. You would always tell my sister, "that's enough," and check in to see if anyone was staying up with fire even if it was getting late.
3. Teaching me how to swing
I didn't remember this lesson until I visited your house last. You and grandma used to have a swingset in the backyard for the kids. It was your classic set-up with a couple swings, a slide, and a seesaw horse. I used to always ask my mom or dad to push me when we visited, but then one day when I was having a hard time you told me to pump my legs. It didn't make any sense at the time and I'm pretty sure I got frustrated, but I know how to swing now
4. Telling me that trees don't like 'getting their hair pulled'.
I was, probably still am, a strange child. I had this curious habit of pulling leaves from the trees and ripping the leaves. You saw me do this one time and asked me, "How would you like it if the tree pulled your hair?" You saying that kind of scared me - like the tree was going to come alive like the one in Pocahontas
5. Teaching me the value of money.
You were the captain of coupons. You would go to the store and they would owe you money - just because you were so good at what you did. Not only that, but you kept a running tab of how much I owed you per every aluminum can I threw out or ruined.
6. Being there for my sister's graduation
I don't think I have ever heard you tell anyone else how proud you were of them until my sister graduated. I was elated to see everyone there - you, grandma, Aunt Brenda, Uncle Don, and Jake. You were always reserved, but you had a humility to your face that I hadn't really seen. When everything was said and done, you hugged my sister, told her you were proud, and said we should all celebrate.
7. Supporting my mom and dad
I don't go out of my way to talk about my mom and dad's marriage. You know why. When you accepted my mom into your family, though, it was a very big moment for her. Her father passed and you sort of filled in that position. You took care of us for her while my dad was away. You didn't really ask a lot of question about it, either. As for my dad, you always helped him out in any way you could, but you never babied him. You taught my dad to be strong and independent. You gave him comfort with news about home even if it was only the weather or some deal at Meijer. I don't know what they would have done without you.
8. Building a strong foundation
I don't see a lot of families with the closeness of ours. Sure, I see a lot of families that go on fancy vacations and post on Facebook about their family excursion of the weekend. However, I don't think they are nearly as close as we are - or goofy for that matter. There's something really special about our family and it's because of you and grandma.
9. Taking care of business
I remember coming over and always seeing notebooks, coupons, bills, and other papers everywhere. You had your own space for all of this stuff and sure got mad if I messed with any of it. However, I understand now and I would probably get upset, too. Your way of taking care of business - deeds, bills, medications for grandma, and providing for your family - was the way you showed you care.
10. Showing me that love is in the smallest things
I didn't know this until after, but grandma told me how you would set out a cereal bowl for her every morning along with some cookies. Every morning you did this. You proved that love exists in the smallest of measures including morning cookies and cereal. You didn't stop there, though. You were the ultimate provider for grandma and never let her fall.
11. Becoming one of my new guardian angels
I can't tell you if Heaven is real or not - you can't really tell me, either. However, if you look at the article picture it's a photo of a waterbug (at least that's what I've been told they are called). I was terrified of these things when I was younger. They would be everywhere - on your patio screen door, the front door, at the cabin, on my stuff, everywhere. When I moved away to college I never saw one of those bugs. Now, I've seen them a handful of times since your passing. I'm not scared of them anymore - a lot of that has to do with the fact that I believe they are part of you (as weird as it sounds). It's you trying to be with me because that's what you do - you put family first and make sure everyone is taken care of. For this, I can never thank you enough.
I know it's too late for you to hear any of this and you probably wouldn't care to talk about any of this, either. You passed away because you are a stubborn, strong man who only wanted the best for his family. You were real, honest, and never said what you didn't mean. In my reflections, I realize just how much I have learned from you and how thankful I am. Right now you would be telling me that's this is enough. You're right - it is enough. Everything you've taught and told me while growing up has always been enough to keep a level head on my shoulders.
Everyone is doing okay - thanks to you. You will always be missed, but never forgotten.