When I was 5 years old I thought my grandfather was the biggest man that ever existed. He was tall, fat, and strong in my 5 year old eyes and I was certain no other man could possibly be bigger. I was also certain that he was as goofy as he was big and continually proved me right with stupid songs that were better than anything Barney can teach kids these days.
But as much as I like to think he was all play, he worked harder than I can ever imagine. PawPaw was a railroad man and worked weeks full of long days to provide our family with everything we could ever want. He worked weeks away from the house and would return to us exhausted. Those nights we had a ritual where we would eat dinner silently while watching the 5 o'clock news. I loved those nights of silent meals, filled with the news of the day because it meant my PawPaw was home for a few days.
The best days were the ones when he was home and rested. Besides singing, his favorite thing to do with me was to scratch off lottery tickets. It may not sound like the best activity for a 6 year old and her grandfather, but I swear I had the best luck when he bought me the tickets and we scratched them off together. I've tried in the past few years to pick up scratch off lottery tickets and I've never won, not even a dollar. I've discovered it wasn't my luck that did it, it was his. I should have taken him to a casino the day I turned 21, I could have been a very rich girl.
I grew up loving PawPaw despite his extreme hatred for animals. Hatred might not even be a strong enough word for how he felt about four legged things. I never would have thought that he could honestly like an animal, yet he loved the dog he gave me in a surprising way. When I had to move to California I knew I would be able to come home for visits, but the fact that I was moving Lily away from him really upset me. I mean, I had never known him to tolerate an animal, but Lily, with her infinite cuteness, had won him over. Nothing could have surprised me more.
But surprised was how PawPaw always left me feeling. Surprised by gifts he would give me. Surprised by winning lottery tickets. Surprised by how much he loved all of us and took care of everyone before himself.
The only thing that's not surprising was how much it hurt to lose him today.