I’m not going to lie. There are perks to being the first grandchild. One of those perks is that you get to have a say in what you call the grandparents. Oh sure, the parents and grandparents have a say… they encourage you to call them by a certain name. But oftentimes, the grandchild had other plans. Such was the case with Pa. My paternal grandparents were to be called Paw-Paw (or PaPa… however you spell it) and Grandma. Apparently Paw-Paw was too repetitive, so in my toddler-wisdom, I shortened it to “Pa” and it stuck. 30-some-odd years later, he is lovingly known as nothing else to the entire family.
Some of my first memories of Pa centered around a German restaurant and an Oom-pah-pah Band. There might have been some yodeling and dancing going on… My Pa was quite proud of his German heritage and would tell anyone who wanted to listen about the story of his grandfather coming over from Germany through the port of Galveston. And he loved the oom-pah-pah music. There was a group called the Vagabonds that he particularly liked. We even bought their record album and the band members signed the cover.
Pa was a talker. He never met a stranger. Anytime he met someone new he found some kind of connection with them. He was always asking how “so-and-so” was, eager to have news of his ever-growing circle of friends and loved ones.
Pa was OCD before there even was such a thing. My dad and his brothers told stories of childhood shenanigans of things like moving the beds an inch and having Pa notice the second he walked in the room because they weren’t aligned with the grains on the hardwood floor. Although he loved his grandchildren and great grandchildren fiercely, he was always following us around with a broom or his handheld mini-vac. Crumbs and dirt didn’t stand a chance at Pa’s house. When I was three years old I made the huge mistake of putting my feet on his wall. Let me just say, that I NEVER made that mistake again, and yes, a three year old can be expected to scrub a wall with a washrag.
Pa loved to collect pretty things that he assured us all were “not play-prettys”. Every time he acquired some new collectable he was eager to show it off. He passed that on to us grandchildren. We were each given little Wade figurines for our own “collections” and a display box to put them in. I reckon most of us still have them.
The inside of Pa’s Cadillac (and it was always a Cadillac) always had that “new car” smell and it always felt like such a luxury to ride in Pa’s car instead of our own when we headed into town for whatever reason. My favorite reason was Bruno’s pizza.
I will miss his “fussing.” He and Grandma were constantly bantering back and forth, but at the end of the day he was so protective of her. I will forever picture them sitting in their “his and her” chairs.
This weekend, we’ll say goodbye to Pa. He passed away early Wednesday morning after being sick for quite some time. We knew it was coming, but the reality is still hard to face sometimes. It makes it easier to think of this not as goodbye, but “see you later”. As my Aunt Denise put it, “He’s probably already sweeping the floors up in heaven.”