Eighty Years

In the year 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in for the second time, the Golden Gate Bridge opened and Amelia Earhart made her first attempt to fly around the world. Oh, yeah—and my grandpa was born!

Today, my grandpa—more commonly known as Poppy—turns eighty years old. EIGHTY! I keep staring at the number on the screen trying to comprehend its magnitude and still can’t wrap my head around the significance of a lifetime that’s four times as long as my own.

In preparation for this milestone, I sat down with my grandparents and tried to pick their brains in hopes of uncovering the most enlightening and entertaining anecdotes from his 80 years of life. In the process, I found myself surrounded by swarms of photos that document the life of the man who once told me, “I took pictures of everything. If it got in my way, I took a picture of it.”

Okay, so now I know where my family’s photo-taking disease originated. By the way, whoever invented slides wins the unofficial award for creating the least efficient way to view photographs!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I could’ve easily typed a million that chronicle every story captured on film.

Instead, scroll through and see my favorites for yourself:

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The back of this photo reads: “Wayne and I in the area that we now have. The little hut you see in the background is Wayne’s. I don’t live in that kind. Mine is located behind Wayne’s but it’s not visible in this picture.”

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While my Poppy lived in England while serving in the Air Force from 1956-1960, has traveled to more than 25 countries, worked as an air traffic controller for 30 years and has been married to my grandma for 54 years, I will (biasedly) admit that so far, his most notable achievement has definitely been being my grandfather.

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Nap time in our favorite rocking chair, circa 1998.

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My Poppy and I have always been quite the dynamic duo– so much so, in fact, that we once co-stared on front cover of The Lorain Morning Journal in July 1998:

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As a kid, I was fortunate enough to live right down the street—and now just two miles across town—from my grandparents. Before I was old enough to go to school, I used to spend most of my days at my grandparents’ house while my parents were at work, and before my grandma retired, it was just my Poppy and me fending for ourselves. This, of course, meant trips to Burger King—aka, Booger King—where I would order orange Hi-C and he would order a vanilla milk shake so we could take turns sipping from each straw to make it taste like we were drinking an orange creamsicle.

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That combination is just one of the many staples in my childhood diet that was sure to, as he says, “put lead in my pencil,” no matter how adamantly I insisted that I did not have a pencil in which to put this lead. Other favorites included his world-famous cinnamon toast and his wildly tie dyed “Green Eggs and Ham” scrambled eggs (though he typically reserved this concoction for my brother).

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My brother managed to lose most of his baby teeth within a span of a few weeks, and my mom knew that it was a prime photo-op in the making… even though my grandma will probably will kill me for sharing this image with the internet.

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I can thank my Poppy for many things, including my first camera, my ability to drive stick shift and the fact that I didn’t drop out of school at age 4. Long before I joked about dropping out of school because of difficult classes, I was “the crier” of my preschool class. During my long, challenging, 2-hour days filled with finger painting and dress up, my Poppy used to stick around in the lobby so he could periodically poke his head in the classroom and assure me that I would, in fact, survive until snack time.

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My grandparents are famous for taking my brother and I on numerous adventures to everywhere from their cottage to the Great Lakes Science Center to Chicago. After hearing stories from their countless travels, I am thankful that they gave me a sense of curiosity and an excitement for exploring and trying new things.

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Mastering the art of the selfie stick, circa 2015.

For the last (almost) 20 years, my Poppy has been my number one supporter, my favorite storyteller and the person who can fix just about anything.

He has taken care of me when I’m sick, attended scores of concerts and swim meets, listened to my endless stories and chauffeured me around on numerous adventures. I am so lucky to have a relationship so close with my Poppy (and Grandma!) that I can’t even put into words how much it means to me, and I look forward to many more years of adventures to come. Happy 80th birthday, Poppy! I love you more than you know.

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