Updated: Dec 20, 2021
“I told you that I love you, right?” It was more of a mental check mark on his final to do list than a question.
My grandpa and me 1972
“Yes,” I said. “You did.” I smile to hold the tears inside my head, willing them to dam up. He seemed content he’d remembered to say it, and asking was just reinforcement. My grandfather was one of the first people to teach me love is a verb. His actions always showed it, so I always knew.
When the calendar flips to 2022, he will have been gone from my life longer than he was physically in it. My memories of him are like living postcards.
Like the time I brought my lunchbox and rode around with him on the swather, holding tight to the rail like a tiny field pirate, standing proudly at the helm. It was that day he stopped and lifted me down to show me a rabbit’s nest full of fluffy babies he’d adeptly spotted, then left undisturbed.
I remember being small and tightly grasping his giant hands. He was always smiling and full of cheer. He lived with gratitude, and from my vantage point, without complaint. I know he had seen hard times, born at the end of one world war, and serving in another. He saw both hardship, and progress. He loved his wife madly, and his family completely, always there to offer encouragement and support.
He made me batches of his famous Christmas fudge in secret. I traded peanut brittle for this treasure, and hid it under my bed. We made a pact I’d carry on the fudge making tradition. This will mark my 25th year of holding up my end of the bargain.
I catch glimpses of him in my dad, and my uncles. They are all pieces of a puzzle that live on in his image. Each has part of his face, a mannerism, an inflection. No one has his laugh, but I can still summon it. It amazes me someone who has been gone so long, can be so present.
Everyone always said he was the nicest man, and it was true. We always knew.
Lawrence Percy Cooley (September 11, 1918 – September 3, 1996), a gentle loving man who truly lived the golden rule. His memory forever cherished.