Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grandpa Joe

This week has been devoted to the beautiful patchwork quilt that is Family. Such a colorful and unique piece of art family is. People who are like you; surrounding you, at times annoying you (yes) and perhaps driving you crazy. But under all that, through every up and down you take with each other, there it is; that invisible string that ties you together. And you still love one another. Why? Because of that magic patchwork that keeps you firmly linked.

You may come from different fabrics, or be in a different patterns, but put us all together? My gosh, we're stunning. Intricate beauty that defies explaination. Held together with seams made strong by small, overlapping stitches. Every piece placed precisely. Purposed. Perfect.


Today a precious member of our family passed away. My husband's maternal grandfather, Joe.

Grandpa Joe.

Now here was a man who could light up a room, even in the darkest of moments. There was joy to his entire being. He loved life. He cherished his friends. He adored his family. Intensely. And you know those people who seemingly know no strangers? Here was one of them. This man went out of his way to make sure every single person in his vicinity felt comfortable. Welcomed. Respected. Every family needs people like that, don't you think?

When I met him, I was the new girl coming into a large and incredibly close knit family filled to the brim with love and laughter. At the time, the thought of finding my place in this beautiful work of art was daunting for me. Would they like me? Where could I fit in? I had so many doubts - until I met Joe Avsec. From the start, he welcomed me with open arms and a smile. I knew from those first tentative family gatherings that I had a place within. And that was a magical feeling.

When I married into the family, I had the honor of calling him Grandpa. And what a blessing he has been in my life. His laughter and stories, his thoughts and advice; I am honored to have them as memories.

My daughters have had the joy of calling him Great Grandpa, and he's been a huge presence in their lives. They loved playing at his house, seeing what little treasures Grandpa Joe might have for them (he always seemed to have some little toy waiting for them to play with, and he was always willing to let that toy come visit at our house); playing in his backyard pond, investigating tadpoles and catching the goldfish. You know, I'm not entirely sure how well the fish they "caught" fared after they were returned to their habitat, but he never stopped them from their exploration, and I think the girls adored him all the more for it.

Every single memory is precious. So very, very precious.

And I'm grateful for each and every single one of them. He will live on through them; for us and for the girls. The hotdogs and beans that I'll make for Dan from time to time, ONLY in a cast iron pan and ONLY with bacon grease. The potica I still make out of the Slovenian cookbook he gave me, linking me to the heritage of this family. The silly cat cards he'd mail to us. The way he was genuinely glad to be wherever he was, and with whoever he was with.

Families are filled with people who make our lives a little brighter, aren't they? The ones who rally around us, always cheering for us and pushing us forward with their words and encouragement. And the thing is, we know special they are in our lives. How bright they make us shine by sharing some of their light. But somehow, when they leave us, we're still left looking at that giant space and wondering in awe at the size of it anyway. As if we simply couldn't comprehend just how special that person was. Not completely. And we feel it keenly.

Thank you for your laughter and your love, Grandpa Joe. I know this isn't goodbye. Not really. Until we meet again.

P.S, every Potica I make is dedicated to you. Every single one.

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