It's been four years, today. Four years since you went away. You never got to meet my husband, Grampa, and I'm sure you would have liked him. You and he, though worlds apart, are cut from the same cloth. "Good men in a storm," we could call you -- the kind of man you want around when something goes wrong with your car or your water heater, or if someone gives you really bad news, or if you feel like you've lost your way in the world. You're both good in times like that, and in just about any other.
Maybe even more importantly, you never got to meet the little guy we named after you. You do know that's why we picked that name for him, don't you, Grampa? How could we pick any other? My entire life, I never knew a more gentle, kinder man than you. You never once raised your voice to me or my brothers (or my mom, she tells me now), though we all must have provoked you at some point. You never said a thing about anyone that was anything short of thoughtful and polite. You always gave people the benefit of the doubt, always. You let us mess up your workshop when we were kids, mixing paint samples and dumping out all your carefully sorted nails and bolts and screws, and you never once complained or made us clean anything up -- you just laughed silently at our antics. You were always the essence of patience and tolerance.
And so when it came time to consider a boy's name for our baby-on-the-way, there was never any doubt. And lo and behold, now that he's arrived, I am astounded, relieved, blessed, grateful to see that at least so far, he bears all of the signs of being a great deal like the man who inspired his choice of name.
I hope you see, Grampa, how patient he is with other children. He demonstrates a patience and kindness so far beyond his age that at times it takes my breath away. I only have to ask him once to share with other children, and he walks right over to them to hand them what he's holding, without hesitation or a single shred of protest. I hope you see how he delights in making people smile, like you did -- and how sensitive he is to the moods of others. When he senses that I'm down, he comes up to me to peer into my face, a concerned look on his own little countenance, and says, "Mom okay?" When children cry in the store or at the library, he frowns quietly in their direction, and then turns to me with worry written across his brow, as if to ask me, "What's wrong with that baby, mom? What should we do?" He's sweet to animals, just like you. He is fascinated with things that are mechanical, especially if they need fixing, just like you. I can only hope and pray that, as he grows to be a man, he takes after his daddy and you -- that he becomes a good man in a storm, too.
I know you're there, and that you can see us. I hope that you get to do it often, and that you take pride in the little boy who bears your name. I hope that you see him and smile, and know that when I speak his name, there is an echo in my heart of all the times I heard yours spoken -- that when I hug him goodnight, I remember all the times I hugged you when we would see each other on summer vacations.
You left the world a better place in so many ways -- through the way your gentle spirit was remembered by those who love you, most of all. And now you've touched the world in one more way -- through the name and smile and sweetness of one small boy who will turn two years old in a few days.
I love you. I miss you. I hope you keep watching us from up where you are. If you can, please put in a good word for us. I think of you as someone who looks out for our little guy -- if that's the case, thank you, thank you. He'll need his guardian angel in the years ahead of him especially, as he starts school and learns to drive and all those other terrifying rites of passage that boys must face.
I can't think of a better angel for him than you.