03/10/09 | Comments (0)

What a party we had, as good as any ever; except of course that it was rather subdued for us because of the occasion. Our youngest daughter Ali brought a bottle of wine, and we were telling stories about the good old days and laughing. We all shared our favorite memories as the night lingered on. We left around 8 pm as a courtesy to Pop’s roommate who was already trying to sleep.

I remembered playing softball with Pop and my brother Dave; childhood challenges with a neighborhood bully; of times when I had not returned his tools; times when Pop could have said “I told you so” but never did.

Ruth Ellen remembered when we were first married and, having just bought George Slack’s old house we had a house painting party. The brush was too heavy for Pop but he did set an amazing record for eating 21 hot dogs as we drank Bud from a keg while Pop strummed on his Gibson guitar and we all sang songs well into the night.

She also remembered “Pop’s garden”. Every spring, he would buy 100 tomato plants, 45 pepper plants, and about 25 zucchini (just in case). Since his knees were already complaining about the weight they carried all those years, he would oversee the project while we did the planting, hoeing, fertilizing, watering, and, eventually, bug spraying.

The harvest was always good, and while he played golf, we picked and picked and then the ladies would do the canning. It seemed like a never-ending chore, but did we have great sauce all winter.

Pop would bring the overflow crop to the golf course and give them away to his buddies, proudly saying “Look what I got from my garden.”

Cindy remembered Pop saying “No goats or chickens in the company cars”; beats me, I never heard that one.

Lizzie thought of the time she played hopscotch on Pop’s front walk with him; she was three, he was probably sixty-eight at the time. Even at that age, Pop still had his athleticism. He loved his sports, what an outstanding athlete.
Ali could still see “Grandpa” in his chair near the left field foul line, enjoying her prowess on the pitching mound while an all-stater for Hamden, and later working her magic at Quinnipiac College. Pop would go on trips with us in New England, and even went with us to Virginia in his burgundy Impala that is still in his garage.
Having a birthday a day apart, they shared the spotlight at the blended birthday parties. It was uncanny how often they would both show up wearing the same colors.

Jennifer was home that evening with infant George, Pop’s great-grandson. She would have remembered the stories, the guitar, and the singing songs as he babysat for the girls while Mom and I went out for the evening. How my Mom did it with Twins so many years ago is still beyond me. I guess that’s why they waited nine years before Cindy came along.

Of course the Red Sox were mentioned, as were his UCONN girls.

Too numerous to mention, Polly’s fondest memories are still her secrets. No one has ever been a more devoted and faithful wife. Folding and holding his hands, she said his Prayers with him, just as they had done with us so many years ago. After finishing “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, she gave him a kiss good night. True Love.

As we left the hospital that night, I knew that I was saying good-bye to him. He looked comfortable and at Peace.

I thanked him for all that he had done for all of us. I appreciated his pushing us into sports, but more importantly that he taught us good sportsmanship. He was as ethical and fine a man as I have ever known.
I assured him that we would look after Mom. And I told him that we were sure he had heard us, and hoped he had enjoyed the party.

We teased him about his favorite rum and cokes, and asked him why he didn’t want to wake up and join us for 1 more drink.

I told him I loved him, and I gave him permission to relax and fall into a deep sleep. “Nanny and Grandpa” are waiting for you, and all through the years you have visited them every week at the cemetery, and they are waiting for you with open arms.”

I asked him to remind Nanny of the time she accidentally hit me on the head with a frying pan, and that I would talk with her about that one day, but not yet.

As I left the room, I reminisced that his Mom had always said when she left us: “I’m not saying “good bye”, I am saying “so long until next time.”

“So long, Pop”.

At 3:38 early the next morning, the phone rang. I was already awake. Dr. Murther from the hospital was calling, informing me that a nurse had gone into Pop’s room at 3:02 and discovered that he was not breathing. She was sorry to be calling at that hour, she apologized.

I told her it was ok, I was expecting her call.

I explained I was instantly awake at precisely 2:42, with an unearthly sensation. I was viewing a dream, with a vision of the scene in the end of movie Titanic, when Kate Winslett was walking up the stairs to take Leonardo Dicaprio’s outstretched hand.

I knew at that moment God had taken his faithful servant Walter into his loving embrace as I had prayed he would when I fell asleep. Pop was comfortable with his spiritual side, and he was home again at last.

I will miss you, Pop. Thank you for this last lesson. In that simple touch you reassured me that there was an afterlife, and I know there is a loving God who cares about us.

Post Script


My wife Ruth Ellen has and uncanny knack for instinctively knowing the right thing to do.

She put on a pot of coffee, and we made the necessary calls to let our family know of Dad’s passing.

Then we talked for a while about the party, about Pop’s life, how much he meant to us, and about our own family.

Many men usually have difficulty expressing their emotions, and I guess I fall in that category. My wife, sensing this, suggested I write down my thoughts while they were fresh in my mind. She walked to the CD player, and turned on a song.

As the first three notes of “The love song from Titanic” reached my ears, I began to cry, and then the words you have read began to flow…



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