Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Jules,
Today, June 6th, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Now I fully expect you to talk to your father about this, because my historical knowledge of WWII is very very hazy, but I do know that Normandy was important to your Great-Grandfather (remember?  The one in the picture in your room? Every night, we say:  "Momma loves you; Dadda loves you; Grammy loves you; Nagyi loves you; Papa loves you; Great-Grandpa loves you; your aunts and uncles love you; Puck loves you; and God loves you."  Right now, your favorites are "Papa," "Puck," and "God," which I guess I could psychoanalyze...).  He served in the 463rd battalion, 79th infantry division, and was part of the Normandy invasion, which is amazing.  He never drank, but he would always drink a bit of Calvados  to celebrate the occasion.

I've been thinkng about Great-Grandpa a lot, as I never had a great-grandparent, and my own grandfather died four (!) years ago now, almost to this day.  And we visited him recently in Rome, Georgia.  He lived for a long time with his wife, Jean, who he absolutely adored, in El Paso, Texas.  Grandpa used to tell lots of Jean stories, and all of them were similarly almost worshipful.  In these stories, Jean spoke her mind, told this Brigadier General what to do, and he did not mind one bit.  He just adored her so much, and I knew he was in love with you when he said you resemble her (which I'm not sure you do, but still...).  I need to find a picture of her to put on this blog for you, but I digress.

Your dad was very close to Great-Grandpa growing up; he would stay with him, help him feed his pet turtles, hang out on his hammock (you also enjoy this!), and read book series, most notably the Oz books.  I actually met him through his 463rd Battalion reunions, which I started attending even before Daddy and I were married.  I still have his honorary pin which, to me, meant so very much.  Both Aunt Maggie and I received pins, and they were a clear "welcome to the family."  Both of us knew how much he loved and cherished not only Dad and Uncle Lee, but also their girlfriends--soon-to-be-wives (For Grandpa knew a thing or two about love, you see).  At these reunions, he always gave the closing speech, which he practiced and delivered from memory in a manner that I envy.  The speeches were not (thankfully) mostly about war, but more about strategy, the friendships these people developed, and the love of his life, Jean.

In 2006, your Dad and I had the opportunity to stay with Great-Grandpa for a week in El Paso.  We had such a lovely time.  Every day, at 0900 (military time), we would leave the house for an outing somewhere: we went to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.  I unfortunately can't find my pictures from then, but these were wonderful times.  We would get back for lunch, and everyone would take a nap while I went for a run (some things never change).  Then we'd all go get dinner somewhere.  I really grew to love your Great-Grandpa during that week and am so grateful I got to see him at his prime.

You've also met your GG a few times.  We've thankfully had the chance to spend two Thanksgivings with him.  During the first one, in 2012, you were almost two--here is a picture of him and some other people you might recognize:
GG, Papa, You, Papa-Dada, and Aunt Maggie


In 2013, we went to Aunt Maggie and Uncle Lee's house in Durham, North Carolina; Grammy drove to Rome, GA to pick up GG and take him first to Charlotte, and then over there.  Again, you and he got along famously.

This past weekend, we went to visit him in Winthrop Manor, where he's currently staying.  His health has declined a good deal; he's in a wheelchair, was on oxygen, can't read books or really hear much any more, and keeps falling.  I really wanted you to see him (and him to see you) while he still could, so we drove to your Aunt Emily and Uncle Mark's house in Atlanta, where you got to play with your cousin Lucy, and then to Rome.  I was a bit nervous about how this all would go, but you just went right up to every single resident, waved, and gave hugs.  You were especially sweet with GG and requested that you sit in his lap:
Every time I look at it, this picture makes me tear up.  You felt so at home in his arms...and just look at how much he loves you!  Even when he's not around any more, I hope you can look at this picture and feel pride and love for this amazing man.  When he came to visit you for your first birthday, I asked all of our guests to contribute a song to a playlist, and his choice was Perry Como's "Til the End of Time."  It's a beautiful song- here's a link to it:   Here's a part that I find most touching:

Till the wells run dry
And each mountain disappears
I'll be there for you, to care for you
Through laughter and through tears

Even if he's no longer physically here, your Great-Grandpa, like your Nagyapa and so many others who will love you, will be there, caring for you, always.

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