Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Papa Riley

I have been fortunate in my life to have lost few people that are close to me, but that does not make the departure of those who have left hurt any less. Today is the ninth anniversary of my grandfather (Papa Riley’s) death.

I was just 12 when Papa Riley died. When I was 13, I began to develop an interest in racehorses, and of course we all know how that went. At that ripe young age I would sit in front of the TV for hours mesmerized by the races, while my parents and grandmother mused in the background about whether Papa Riley, who was once a thoroughbred trainer, would have encouraged my new addiction or not. I think the fact that it grew into what it is today is indicative of the answer.

As the years have passed my memories of him have faded, but the ones I still have are beautiful. I remember the Christmas when he and Gramma came home from Florida on Christmas Eve and surprised the whole family. I remember riding around with him in the golf cart in Florida filling up sandbags to line the driveway with lighted candles inside, which was a Christmas Eve tradition there. I remember when he would golf in mom and dad’s front yard, and Kristen and I would chase after the balls and collect them (I never said we were brilliant as children). I remember riding in the cab of the transport when he would drive Kristen and I home from the cottage. I vaguely remember a trip to the Peterborough zoo. I remember once going for a canoe ride at the cottage, and reaching out to touch the lily pads on the water, the most mesmerizing event of my very young life.

More than anything, I remember his kind heart. Those memories above seem to get more distant with each passing year, and I have trouble remembering very specific events that he was a part of. I no longer remember exactly how tall he was, exactly what his voice sounded like, or the specific shapes of the lines along his tanned face. But I do remember his smile, how it would crinkle his eyes and how he would wipe tears from his face when he got laughing really hard (usually at something we kids did to annoy Gramma!) And I remember how much he loved us, and that was a lot. And I know that whether or not he agreed with my career path, he would never begrudge me if he saw how happy I was, and he would never deny that I should follow my dream. Since I am so unmistakably (and proudly) my mother on the outside, I like to think that I carry a little piece of him on the inside.

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