You never knew one little house to cram in so much family all at once, just to be together and see the contented smiles on Mommom and Poppop's faces.
Ever since I was born we did Easter at my dad's parent's house. My dad was one of seven kids, and there were lots of grandkids too. Every year there was the huge Easter egg hunt for whoever was little enough to still participate. When the grandkids got too old the great grandkids hunted. It was one of the most looked forward to events of my childhood. Somewhere in that great big fenced in backyard there was a silver egg, and a gold egg too. And you knew that at the end of the hunt you'd get to trade in your eggs for all kinds of prizes.... kites and bubbles and sidewalk chalk and beanie babies and sometimes money... and that loaded prize table was just as good as Christmas morning. The uncles would all go hide the eggs, and then we'd all line up by the back porch with our bags, listen to the rules, get our picture taken, and then hear "On your mark, get set, GO!" Because no one can resist the childishness fun of a colored egg poking out of a clump of grass, the aunts and uncles would all wander out into the back yard to "help" us look. When you were done you'd all count your eggs and then whoever got the most would get to choose from the prize table first, and down through the line over and over until everything was chosen. It was all overseen by my Poppop with his list, and he'd call out our names when it was our turn to choose. I can still hear him saying my name.
Well this Easter it rained. I was sick and we weren't there anyway. The hunt got post-poned to this past Monday, just three days ago. I'm so glad we were able to go. It was the last one we'll ever have there.
My Poppop's been fighting cancer since this past fall. He passed away this morning. He couldn't hide eggs this year, he couldn't even come outside to watch, or oversee the prize choosing, but before the hunt started he called all the little great grandkids into the living room and handed them each a special egg with a gold coin in it. He didn't complain, he was just happy to have his family around him. I hugged him goodbye before we left. He asked me if the boys had fun, I told him they did, he smiled at me and said "did they? that's good." And like that I'll never hear his voice or see him smile or give him a hug again.
I know where he is. I know I'll see him again. I know he is with my Jesus, no longer in pain. I know I'll get to hear him tell his stories and opinions and hear his slight southern accent as he talks and see those facial expressions that were so uniquely him. But what we're losing that we won't get back except to keep in our memories is this legacy. That little yellow cape cod is the only place that's still the same from my childhood. Every year, no matter what, you knew that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there'd be family stopping by their house, the nativity on top of the tv, a big buffet dinner, tons of people squeezed around all the different shaped tables lined up in the family room and covered with Mommom's white lace table clothes, and down at the end of the table would be Mommom and Poppop, side by side, taking it all in. You knew that in the evenings Mommom and Poppop would be side by side in the living room in their recliners, watching tv. You knew that in the spring Poppop would be out working in his garden, growing the best tomatoes you ever had. You knew every evening Mommom would call and talk for a bit and then she'd tell my dad that his dad would wanna talk to him too, and Poppop's voice would come on the phone saying "Hi, son." You knew if you ever stopped in they'd be thrilled to see you, and there'd be cookies and crackers poured on paper plates on the kitchen table and passed around and Mommom would tell stories from when they were younger and Poppop would just chuckle as he remembered.
It's always been Mommom and Poppop. They'd been through hardships, losses, disappointments and trials you wouldn't believe, but together they forged this love and this big family and put down their roots and made this solid, stable, dependable life full of fun memories for us all. Even if Mommom keeps the house, nothing will be the same without Poppop there.
I'll miss his presence. So much.
My dad's tribute to his father:
"Gene Price was not an easy man to get to know yet everyone knew him. He was principled, hard working, determined, steady and rock solid. It was not until later in life he became comfortable with the softer side of life. He was married to my mom for 65 years. Dad loved it when we all got together for crab feasts, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter or for any other reason. Dad was a private man regarding his faith. That’s the generations he came from. He served his country in the Navy but rarely talked about it. Dad did not share his feelings easily but when it came to his opinions there was never any doubt about what he believed in or where he stood. He never sought popular opinion or fame regarding those things and He never retreated just because popular opinion thought something different.
While there were many who believed him to be tough and even belligerent; they never doubted his principles or convictions. He was the original McGyver except before duct tape he used electrical tape and he could fix almost anything.
He expected us to keep our commitments and to see it through to completion regardless of what others might think or say or even how tough it got. He wasn’t perfect but he loved us with a fathers love. He had a big laugh, he wore a “Big” belt and he always had big dreams for us. I am proud to say, I am my Father’s son. Gene Allen Price went to be with the Lord this morning at 8:20am. I love you Dad."