Remembering PopPop

It’s been three months since my grandfather died.  It’s crazy to think about it.  It has been a difficult three months.  For those of you who don’t know, I called my grandfather PopPop.  As did my friends, other family, and random strangers.  Some called him the Candy Man, some called him a dirty old man (make no mistake, he definitely was), he called himself Crazy Bernie, but to me, he was always PopPop.  I’ve thought about the right words to honor him and remember him for a long time.  To be honest, for several years I’ve wondered what would be the best thing to say about him and I’ve hit a wall.  There’s a lifetime of memories and things to share and none of what I put into words can do him the true justice he deserves.  But I’m going to try.

PopPop and I were extremely close.  More than what most people would consider in a grandfather-granddaughter relationship.  Attributed to being the youngest grandkid, or maybe the only girl – I couldn’t tell you.  But we had an amazing relationship.  And I’ve recognized that the very reason these past three and a half months have hurt so much and have left me in tears or staring off into space at some random times is BECAUSE we had such a good connection with one another.  We were involved in one another’s lives.

My dad and PopPop worked together.  They did everything together really.  Every morning PopPop would be waiting in his car for my dad outside our apartment.  Back in the ’90s, PopPop had this ugly brown car.  I have no idea what kind of car it was, but I hated the color and I hated that it always smelled like smoke (he used to smoke way too much).  My dad was rarely ready before my brother and I had to leave for school, so we would often get rides from PopPop instead of having to walk.  It was about a mile, but especially on days when the weather was bad – best days ever.  And the car had a bench seat in the front so you could actually sit 3 people if you wanted to.  And I was super tiny as a kid, so naturally, I would sit right next to PopPop in the middle seat.  That was my seat.

Somewhere along the way, PopPop discovered I liked these gummy burger and pizza things.  I have no idea if they still make them (I haven’t had them in probably two decades), but at one point, any time I got in his car, he’d have a bag of them for me.  Because that was the kind of person he was.  PopPop was the first person to let me “drive.”  We were in Pennsylvania (my grandparents had a vacation house up there) and my brother and I were fighting so he took me for a ride to get away from the chaos for a little.  Just us.  We went down a state park and I remember asking him if I could drive and without pause, he put me on his lap and I got to drive the ugly brown car.  I vividly recall him not even having his hands on the steering wheel (that may have been ignorance on my part, but blissful I most certainly was)!  I was probably 6 or 7.  I went back to that state park the day after his funeral with my parents and brother and the memory of going down that road with him scared the life out of me.  No person in their right mind would let a child even pretend to drive that road!  It’s super narrow and windy.  But he didn’t hesitate.

PopPop would often pick my brother and I up from school too.  Both our parents worked and the alternative was after school.  PopPop picking us up was way better.  We’d go to this restaurant called Zeke’s.  I don’t even remember the kind of food there and they’ve long since closed, but we went a lot.  There was a park across the street from there that we would go to after eating.  The best.  And when PopPop was ready to leave and we weren’t?  I would scream: “Stranger! He’s trying to take us!!”  I was a brat.  He would throw his hands up in the air “Oh!  Ho, ho!  No, no.”  and we would get to play a little longer.  It never occurred to me then that he still continued to take us to the park after we pulled those stunts.  When I went to high school I figured the rides to school would stop – I was going to a school much farther away and traffic would be a nightmare – the train was the only logical transportation.  But I still got to see PopPop in the mornings, waiting for my dad.  And a few times, I did get a ride.  Who was luckier than me?

As kids, we went to PA a lot, but after my grandmother had died, not so much.  We started doing other things and PopPop came with us quite a bit.  We went to Disney World.  We went to the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  Skiing in Killington.  Yup, my 78 year old grandpa went skiing with me.  We went on a cruise in Hawaii.  That cruise was when I realized my sweet, kind, thoughtful grandfather was also a dirty old man. :/  I don’t remember him drinking in my lifetime, but according to his stories (and some family members’s stories), he could drink.  We had just gotten on the boat and my parents and brother were off doing something else, so him and I sat at the bar and sipped on some sodas.  And the stories.  Oh the stories he told!  From his Navy days, from married days to his current days.  Things no granddaughter should hear.  Had they been told by anyone else – hysterical.  And good for him.  But not my PopPop!  But we became closer on that trip.  I was always the favorite (I’m joking, but really I’m not).  And when I told him I was joining the Navy?  Forget it.  I could do no wrong.  I was already at an elevated status in his mind.  Joining the same branch of service as him?  Set for life.

PopPop has always been there for me.  When I graduated from high school and college, he was there.  He came down to Florida when I got my master’s and spent the week with us in Disney before I actually walked across the stage.  That was an awesome experience.  When I commissioned into the Navy, I don’t think I ever saw him look prouder.  The night of my commissioning was the Navy Ball and we attended.  My favorite picture of the two of us was taken that night – the last dance I ever had with him. When I was stationed in Hawaii, he came to visit again with my parents.  I got to give them a tour of my ship and after running into my CO, we went to the bridge for him to sit in the Captain’s chair.  Another proud moment to share.

In the past few years, I’d gotten used to calling PopPop just to say hi.  Or he would call me.  Our conversations were always short, but meaningful.  If I was unable to answer my phone, I’d get random messages.  “Hellloooooo.  Anybody home?  Haha.  OK! Goodbye!” He had a distinct way of saying goodbye.  There was the very staccato way.  Almost as if it were one syllable.  The race to saying it the quickest.  Or the drawn out “Good-bi-eye”  as he shook his hand at you as in a ‘get outta here, crazy.’  There were a lot of mannerisms he had like that, though.  His expressions were priceless.

The week before he died, he made it clear that he was ready to go.  He had been in the hospital and I was lucky with work that I could be home to see him as often as I did before he passed.  He was always in good spirits.  We had some alone time at one point and I wasn’t ready to accept that he was going to go yet and had brought up a conversation him and I had had in July.  We had agreed that he would live to be at least 103.  I initially had said 100 and he laughed at me, saying a hundred was too young.  It would be 103.  So that day in the hospital I told him he wasn’t allowed to go – he promised me another seventeen years.  The look in his eyes was what I needed to accept that he was ready then – he was just waiting for us living people to catch up.  He told me a lot of things that morning, but what I choose to share with you is summarized to this: Live.  It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, you just need to enjoy every minute of when you’re alive.  When I couldn’t help but cry, he yelled at me.  Told me not to waste my time mourning – he had lived his life and had more fun than he should have.

Throughout that week he told us of heaven.  It’s a beautiful place.  And all your sins are forgiven.  Even the ones you might be nervous about – you’re good.  PopPop was never all that religious.  He gave me rosary beads at my First Communion that were in a very nice box that says “The family that prays together stays together” and has come to every single sacrament I’ve received in the Church, but otherwise not so much.  He died on a Monday.  The Sunday morning before he asked me to pray for him (I had visited before going to church).  When I got back after church, he had taken a turn for the worse.  I was closing on my house in Virginia (yes, I moved again) the next day and had to get on the road.  When I told him I needed to go, he laughed at me and told me he’d get there before me.  And laughed.  He was in so much pain, but he still laughed.  “Good-bi-eye” he said to me as I tried to hide tears, knowing this was truly our last goodbye.  It was the only time he said that to me without waving me off.  Mostly because we were holding hands.  My dad and aunt walked me to my car and I’ll never forget me aunt asking my dad “what happened?!” in disbelief.  We thought even that morning that he was going to make it through this.  My dad’s response: “He lived 86 years.”

I closed on my house and took care of some new owner things before making my way back up to New York Monday afternoon.  I stopped for some dinner and was messaging a close friend saying I was pretty sure he had passed, but no one was answering my calls.  I just had this feeling that it was THAT moment.  I had just gotten back on the road again and was about halfway home when my mom called with the news.  You know that even when you expect the worse, it still feels miserable to hear it and confirm the truth behind it.  I had to pull over again to let it truly sink in.  I texted two friends.  I couldn’t use the words and I certainly couldn’t say it over the phone.  And I pulled it together as much as I could and got back to driving.  I was overwhelmed by the support my friends showed.  They passed the word along to make sure I had someone to talk to and distract my thoughts so I could make it the remaining 4 hours that night.  And then even moreso by the fact that almost all my friends had met PopPop at one point or another.  Because he was that important.  My friends knew my grandfather.  And loved him.  Because how could you not?

To everyone who reached out – it is greatly appreciated.  There are few words that can really make a difference, but your presence (physical or through phone calls or messages) meant the world.  Especially you Queens folks that braved the R train to come to the wake and funeral.

To the man who taught me:

  • some people are screwballs and should be treated as such
  • $20 will get you crack if you’re ten years old
  • to always have a spare napkin or two (you neva know when ya gotta go)
  • not to take any wooden nickels from anybody
  • laugh when people are angry with you
  • live and be happy
  • you always love me, no matter what
  • and so much more

– you are forever missed.

My last saved voicemail from PopPop was from May 6th, 2017.  It’s 7 seconds long and I had no idea I still had it until another friend had left me a message and I saw his name on the saved messages list.  I say these words back to him now:

“I miss you.  I love you.  Good-bi-eye.”



Bon Jovi’s got a song with this very title. If you’re not familiar with it and you wish for some kind of expression on trying to clear your mind from pain, I’d recommend it. It’s a good song regardless. But that’s the time the lyrics really jump out at me. It’s been 16 years since the deadliest attack on American soil. 16. It still amazes me. The memory sits in my mind as if it were mere hours ago. They say time heals all wounds. Maybe they’re right. The pain and sadness and fear I felt sixteen years ago has definitely faded some. But in other aspects, it’s almost as if it’s gained momentum. There’s still sadness. A different type I think, but undeniably heartwrenching nonetheless. There’s still fear. Again. It’s different. What we lost and had to lose then is very different from now. And anger. As anger that makes your blood boil and veins pop.

Words don’t give emotions justice. Or maybe I’m not as good a writer – there’s moments I become so consumed with getting everything on the page that it may not make sense. I can’t convey everything I want and feel from when my brain thinks it to the time it takes to type. Anyway. Today’s a difficult day for me. For a lot of people. I’m fairly certain I’ve shared some of my story about this day in the past. We all have one. One of the most remarkable things to me about September 11th, 2001 was hearing my cousin, who is a police officer, talk about when he arrived at what was soon to be known as Ground Zero that morning. Amidst the rubble and devastation, he saw a butterfly. In that moment, he described how he knew his brother, a firefighter, had given the ultimate sacrifice. Every year since, I have seen a butterfly on this day. Today being no exception. It amazes me. I had to double check with a co-worker that we’ve never seen butterflies where we work before. Sans the one that nearly just flew into me right before I asked.

Today’s a short post. I just needed to share that. I’ll leave the further interpretations up to you. United We Stand.


I often find myself wondering if I’m too independent. Too opinionated. Too… much. Not enough like everyone else. I think all those things go together. I find myself debating with my own inner dialogue, but sometimes with those I care about as well. When other people weigh in, it usually goes along the lines of them telling me I have stronger opinions on somethings that I probably shouldn’t even really care about, but I should still just go with it. You be you kind of thing. Internally, it depends on the day.

There’s moments I truly think I have split personalities. Not in the legit I have a medical problem, just depending on the day. There’s the ‘I want to be social and go hang out with everyone I know and I can’t sit still and just want to do all the things’ days and then there’s the ‘I don’t want anything to do with people and binge watching Netflix or reading a book in my hammock for 8 hours sounds like the highlight of life and even answering a text seems too social for me’ kind of days. So on my more introverted days, I tend to think maybe I need to conform to what most of society deems “normal.” But on extroverted days… HA! Society can go… well, this is a family friendly blog. So choose your own adventure to fill in that blank.

It’s a conundrum, nevertheless. It’s not easy to be an extrovert AND an introvert. It’s especially difficult when you think you’re feeling extroverted and you meet up with humans and BAM! You really just want to be by yourself. I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this! So do you frantically look for excuses to leave? What if they came to your house?! Now you’re stuck! The horrors. This is a real thing, people. Nightmarish.

Anyway. This timeshare has been calling me for the past 2 weeks and never leaves a message. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk to them – talking usually results in some decent perks – I just am never around my phone when they call. But on the rare occasions I am, I might be in that introverted, dealing with humans is way too overwhelming mode, even via phone calls. In case you were wondering, I finally touched based with them and have a new vacation to plan in the next year or so! Vacation planning is difficult for me, though. My schedule with work is in such a constant flux that it’s difficult to plan more than a few weeks in advance for many things. Which can be great for last minute deals. But flights pretty much never have such discounts and availability can become an issue too. And my people who have more normal scheduled jobs find it difficult to get time off with that short of a notice.

In most instances, that just means I’ll go by myself. Adventuring alone is a pretty sweet gig. I do what I want, only what I want, and don’t have to worry about someone else not getting their way. It sounds pretty selfish and it is. But it’s awesome in it’s own right to have that freedom to literally seize the day I any which way you see fit. Sharing those experiences is great too. You get a different perspective and all that goes along with spending quality time with someone else. And this is where I find myself getting in my own head.

Would I rather go through life having that freedom or those shared moments? Am I too independent to truly share my adventures with someone else all the time? I’m not speaking just to romantically inclined relationships, either. Ski trips with my fencing team from high school or dive trips with my college friends fall into this question too (ok, diving is a bad example since I wouldn’t go diving alone, but it conveys the point that platonic relationships count as well). And I don’t know if I have an answer to that yet. So I go back and forth with the pros and cons of such. And maybe it doesn’t need an answer. Trips I’ve ventured on solo or with people have been epic. Would they have been enhanced if I wasn’t by myself or had I gone on my own? Probably in some aspects. It can be lonely dining alone. But it can also be refreshing. First world problems, I’m telling you. The struggle is real!

At any rate, you gotta do what makes you happy! Hakuna Matata!


I find stereotypes really interesting.  Not saying I agree with them – or even disagree with them: I just find them interesting.  For instance, people say New York is dirty and crazy and the people are rude and crazy. Sometimes that’s absolutely right.  But tens of thousands of people a day visit the city.   Quests, adventure, I ❤ NY everywhere. Seems counterintuitive for a dirty, rude city for people to want to visit.   I went to NYC’s Fleet Week this past weekend.  It’s in those moments of walking around my city, watching people connect and show appreciation for the military and whatnot that it makes me so proud to be from there.   

The city changes for events such as Fleet Week. When a NY team wins the World Series or Stanley Cup or whatever sport you’re into. You get the idea. I watched people in cabs flag down Sailors crossing the street to give them money to buy a drink.  Service members getting VIP treatment to observation decks of the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. Free meals and beer and people genuinely appreciative of other people.  It’s an unforgettable experience. 

I also checked off another Broadway show while I was home. It may be hard to believe, but until this weekend, I had never seen The Lion King on the big stage! I’ve been hesitant to see it. With it being my favorite movie, I had high expectations and I didn’t want to be disappointed! Well. I was not. The costumes and puppet work was phenomenal.  Nothing I imagined it would be and I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was enthralled. I wish I had a thousand pairs of eyes to see everything. One to see again, methinks!

Hakuna Matata!

NY State of Mind

So I’m officially a New York State resident again. It’s kind of funny. I’ve always associated myself with being from NY and it will always be home. But this is the first time in my adult life that I’m actually living in NY.  I went to college in Florida when I was still 17 and haven’t been back other than visits since. Go figure! Granted,  I live in upstate NY now,  but it still feels more home than my previous digs have.  There’s just something about being close to mountains and having seasons and just the charm that is the greatest state that I can’t explain with words alone.  It’s that feeling of truly being somewhere you love.  You don’t need to DO anything to have that vibe. It’s sheer contentment sitting on your stoop or driving to nowhere and reveling in the beauty and magnificence of where you are. The feels are just there.  It’s simple and wonderful tied up in a bow and BAM! Home. 

I went home home (yes,  Brooklyn) for Easter weekend. It was nice. I didn’t tell all that many people I was returning. It was pretty sad to go home and not have the Ice puppy there.  Empty. 😦  There’s no words that can make that go away. Maybe time helps. I don’t know yet.   The other day was the anniversary of my good friend who took his life. I’ve written about him before (re: Sandman) and I guess it is a true testament to time since it was the first year that I didn’t completely lose it thinking about everything.  I still miss him. I still wish he was with us and nothing will change that he wasn’t here for long enough.   But I think I’m finally accepting things and coming to peace with it. It’s a strange feeling. Part of me thinks that’s a betrayal of him – that somehow that makes me miss him less or not care. But the other part recognizes you can’t dwell on the what ifs or should haves. What’s done is done.  There’s still an empty void that will probably never be filled.

But back from that tangent, home was otherwise nice. Had some meals at my favorite restaurants with family,  got breakfast – I would call it brunch but apparently if you meet before 10AM the absolute earliest,  you’re out of your mind and it’s definitely breakfast – with some high school friends (we’ve known each other for over a decade!!! How crazy is that?!??!!), and, of course,  an amazing dinner for Easter at my aunt and uncle’s – with more family! Om nom. So much food and goodness!  Anyway. Life is good. 

Hakuna Matata!

It’s Raining

When it rains, it pours. I had my second chance yesterday and it went well for all those of you who were sitting by in suspense from my last post. So yay! Which now just means I’m moving again! Yup. I think this is the 6th real move I’ve had since I started this blog! :O. Might’ve had more. Hmm. I move a lot. And it never fails that when I do, the weather wants to welcome me with some insane amount of awful storminess. 

When I first moved to Florida: hurricane! Texas: hurricane/tornados! Rhode Island – granted that was only supposed to be for 3 months, but ended up being closer to 9: blizzard!  California: RAIN. OK, I know rain isn’t a huge deal. But it was San Diego. It doesn’t rain there! But it did when I showed up! Hawaii: typhoon warnings. South Carolina: hurricane! So in my journey to New York, why wouldn’t it have a massive downpour the entire drive with threats of hail and other craziness! 

Rain isn’t terrible though. Not always. Thirteen years ago (pretty sure to the day today, actually), my brother and dad were upstate hiking and a dog ran into the car they had just run into (it was their car, not some random stranger’s) because it started raining.   There was only one other car in the lot and as soon as the dog got in their car, those people drove away. And from this, we had a dog. Ice puppy! He was only 3 or 4 months old at the time.  And he was a non barking dog! So naturally when my dad and brother got home, they woke me up to tell me the epic news. 

I had begged to have a dog for forever. We lived across the street from a pet store and every day on the way home from school, we’d have to stop and look at the dogs that were in the window. There was a golden retriever (I decided his name was Rex) who I HAD to have. But now we had this brindle puppy. Oh yeah. And Mom wasn’t allowed to know! :O. We lived in an apartment. In hindsight, not a whole lot of room for a dog. But I wasn’t thinking about that. 
We hid Ice in my brothers room for almost 3 days. When my mom came home from work one day, she demanded to know if there was a dog in the house. Whoops. So she goes to the room and of course Ice sees a new person and is excited and jumps up on her to greet her. She’s horrified. “He’s not even a cute dog!” She exclaimed in rage. His paws may have been a little wet and she was in her clothes from work still. And most people aren’t crazy about a 30 pound dog jumping on them.  She was irate. She wanted nothing to do with him. We simply had to get rid of him. 

About a week went by and it was clear Ice wasn’t going anywhere. My mom decided she would finally take him out for a walk. And of course on the last block before returning home, he sat down on the corner and refused to move. My mom was pulling him and trying to get him to move and of course,he was just smiling away, content as could be on the street corner. Mom was outraged. Refused to ever take him out again. But of course, Ice grew on her.  A few years later, my brother wanted to take Ice to Florida for the summer. Mom’s response: “You can’t take my dog!”  

Ice was part of the family. Sadly, he had to go to sleep the other day.  As we’ve been telling people, they’ve been amazing reminding us of all the good times we’ve had with Ice.  He had a great life – over 13 years of awesomeness! As my first dog, he was the best. Happy, protective when needed, and always ready to head outside, I hope the ultimate dog park is everything and more to keep him the smiling, best dog ever. 


It’s been a rough month.  I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the hours of daylight I saw in the previous two weeks. And in all of that, I ended up not succeeding on my first attempt on a task that’s rather vital for my job. I get another shot at it next week. So that really just means another week of killing it to ensure round 2 goes better. 
In all of this, naturally, I was pretty devastated. I’ve been working so hard,it’s frustrating to see those efforts seem to go to waste. They’re not. But in an instant when you learn you’ve failed at something – That’s the moment you think everything you’ve been doing is for naught. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?  I try to find the good in everything. A reason that maybe isn’t so obvious as to why certain events occurred the way they did.  It’s still pretty hard for me to accept this didn’t go my way. But I was reminded of something more important than anything else in all of this. 
I’ve mentioned this before. And I’ll say it again. I have the greatest people in my life. When I got to my phone the other night, I had a handful of texts and voice-mail messages from my people with their words of encouragement and support. It’s easy to blame other people for things that go wrong. But ultimately that gets you no where. Easier said than accepted of course. But my people all avoided any of that blame. Simply stated how I’ll get it next time and how I’m still awesome and all the feels.  The focus on the positive and what can be controlled.  That’s huge.  And makes all the difference in the world. 
I’ll end my sappiness here for the evening. But don’t forget the importance of being positive. It changes things. For the better. Hakuna Matata!