A letter to heaven

A letter to my role model: I will never forget you

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Everyone has a role model. It could be a friend, a family member or even a celebrity, but everyone has someone they look up to. My role model passed away on Sept. 17, 2018, and since then everything has been different.

Photo contributed by Taylor Renk

My grandpa was a second generation Italian-American, with plenty of personality and a questionable vocabulary. He would growl when he chewed his food, scream answers at the television to every Family Feud question and sing along with Dean Martin or Rat Pack songs that came on the radio. He had no filter, but he had a huge heart to back up his unpredictable behavior.

In high school, he was a three-sport All-American, and believe me, he never let anyone forget it. I can picture him being in the “cool jock” group, where they wear nothing but letterman jackets and Chuck Taylors, walking around with their chests puffed out and hair slicked back, meanwhile only passing their classes by the skin of their teeth.

His epic love story with my grandma, who passed away 10 years ago this August, started in high school, where boys could barely grow facial hair and girls were trying to get away with rolling their skirts as short as possible. From their very first day together until their very last, their love for each other was constantly vibrant and growing. They were, as many would now say, “couple goals.”

I grew to admire their love story, and when my grandma left us 10 years ago, my grandpa’s heart went with her. I tell myself now that my grandpa passed away from heartbreak rather than any medical condition that the doctors diagnosed him with.

It is difficult to see someone you love so much be so sad all the time. He was still his vibrant, outgoing and unfiltered self, but just different. When you lose someone you love, everything is different, but things do get better.

I could still see the personality in him, every so often making jokes, driving my mom crazy and making all of the grandchildren laugh hysterically. He would still talk a stranger’s ear off, even when you could blatantly tell they were not paying attention — I have had to apologize multiple times on his behalf. He would take me for haircuts, lunch dates and sports games, making friends everywhere he went. When he was inducted into the high school athletic hall of fame and returned to his old stomping grounds, he was in his glory, loving every bit of being the center of attention.

Little did he know, he was always the center of attention in my eyes. Perfectly imperfect, hysterically unfiltered and one of a kind are just a few ways to describe my grandpa. To me, he was right all the time, even when he was obviously wrong. He was my grandpa, coach, role model and best friend all wrapped up into one.

I miss falling asleep on the couch at night to Steve Harvey blasting on the TV, and waking up to his fast money answers. I miss looking up into the stands at my soccer games and seeing my biggest fan cheering me on. Most of all, I miss talking to him whenever I needed someone to listen — or doze off into sleep while I talk. Either way, I loved every minute of the time I spent with him.

People say that if you write a letter to someone in heaven that it will reach them eventually, so PopPop, I hope you can read this.

I miss you dearly every single day. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about what life would be like if you were still here. Would you still be complaining about the strict diet my mom had you on, meanwhile hiding Chips Ahoy! in your bedside drawers? Would you still watch the Pittsburgh Pirates in disgust, claiming you would never watch them again every time they lost, even though you and I both knew you were watching the next game? I could go on for days.

I wish you could be at my college graduation. I wish you could be at my wedding. I wish you could have met your future great-grandchildren who would love you even more than I do.

I hope that I am making you proud in everything I do. I hope that one day I could be half of the grandparent to my grandchildren as you were to me. I definitely had a great role model.

I know that you are looking over me, watching me grow into the young woman you knew I could be. As for me, I will continue to cherish the moments we had together. I love you Pop, and I will never forget you.

Love,

your girl.

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