Don’t Worry Papa.

May 31, 2019

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R.I.P. Fred Hartwick “Papa”

It was Monday, Memorial Day, I woke up to a call from my mom. I generally like to think I am a decent morning person, but on this morning I was not. It was 7 a.m. and my phone kept buzzing. I was fearful to answer it, knowing the inevitable news that was awaiting me. I kept staring at the phone with her face on the screen. I looked up at Matt and simply stated ” I don’t know if I can answer this.” Of course I did, it was my mother calling me. I sucked in a giant breathe and slide my finger across the screen. I said “Mom?” I didn’t greet her with a smiling “Good Morning!” or a “Morning Lady!” No, I knew what was coming and said very little. I heard your cries on the other end of the phone and I had already knew the news you were about to tell me. Memorial Day early morning you passed away. I knew you were getting worse over the weekend, my sister kept me up to date. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t want to think about it in fear of making it true. My reaction was more of a sadness for my mom than it was of the loss of you. I don’t think it even really hit me that day. I went to work, not really thinking about it.

I won’t pretend we were close. I won’t pretend I knew a whole lot about you. You were in my life a lot more as a child and a young teen. Once I turned 17 I barely saw you, let alone knew the man you were. As a child you were always at my parents house or we were in your town home. You always greeted us with a smile and giant bear hug. I can remember you smelled spicy, a mix of your aftershave and your cologne. You had your ears pierced with a hoop earring in your left ear that fascinated my sister and I. I always associated you with wine, pasta and cats. I’ll chalk it up to Italian roots and your house pet, but everytime we came over I expected it to be on the table. You always had a cat, no matter where you lived you had a cat. It made me smile when we got cuddles from Friday. I never knew where his name came from, but I always remembered you had gray cats.

As I got older I remember my sister and I coming to help clean your home. We were still relatively tiny, but you thought it was a good experience. I accidentally used the wrong cleaning product on your coffee table. I’ll never forget your angry reaction. It made my sister and I draw ourselves back a litte. I don’t think you were use to not being in control of every situation. I thankfully didn’t ruin it, but for some reason that memory always stuck with me. That was really only the bad memory I had. I had so many of us as a giant family, members of both sides coming together for Holidays and yearly Apple Orchard events. I would look forward to those days for months. It was always so much fun going to have a picnic in Boardman park followed up with White House orchard visits. We would ride the carriage to see the orchard and play in the petting zoo until we wore ourselves out.

As you got older you still looked the same to me. In my mind you really didn’t age. A few years into my teens you lost Carole, your wife at the time. After that everything turned dark for you. Carol had always kept up the family excursions and had us all socializing. After we lost her to cancer you didn’t come around as much. You tried. You tried dating and even brought your girlfriends over for us to meet. I think a few years into you dating you started to get sick. Your memory betraying you, your mind getting foggy. I didn’t really notice or understand what was going on. My mom had an inclination that something was wrong when you would pick random fights or cancelling to see us. In my 20s was when I realized it was worse.

Mom had you put in a nursing home. It was then as your mind wasn’t all there I realize who you probably were as a child. You made a friend in the home and were always up to no good. Locking doors, trying to escape to go get wine and hitting on nurses. It made me realize even though you didn’t know who you were at the time you were still a part of you, just the younger part.

I didn’t know you. Not the older verison of you. That’s probably my own fault for not trying harder, but I just assumed you were too busy to spend time with your family. When I found out you passed it didn’t shock me. Hell I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t know who you were. Just knew how you made me feel like a happy little kid when we came to visit. I didn’t think I’d react or have any emotion associated with losing you. When I moved I knew it would be the last time I saw you and I had accepted that. I took some leave from work to truly process. I’m sad you’re gone. I’m sad I don’t get to see your big smile anymore and that little silver hoop earring or hear your deep laugh. I’m grateful I got to know you when I was a child and a teen. I know some don’t get that opportunity. I’m grateful you were able to be around mom. I know it was hard on her watching you become less and less you. I know my mom struggled, but I also think it gave her a reason to take time from her life and be near you. We always get so wrapped up in the things around us that sometimes finding time is near impossible. She brought you snacks and spent hours a week coming to visit and check in. She took care of you like you were a child.

It’ll be an adjustment knowing you’re no longer around, but don’t worry Papa we’ll take care of her. Rest Easy.

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