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'Cause sometimes I even surprise the knit out of myself.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Happy 86th Birthday Teddybear

Today is my grandfather's 86th birthday. I don't think there is a bond more special than a grandfather and grand-daughter. At least for me, it is very special. Pop is one of the most admirable people, by the way he's led his simplistic lifestyle, how he treats people, how he gives back, is always smiling or trying to make other people smile, and most important of all a loving father.

As you are all so kind to always listen to my jabber, let me tell you a little more about this unique and special person in my life.

Unique Facts about our Teddybear:

He was my childhood best friend and constant companion. He taught me to read well before I was expected for my age by driving me around town and making me read street signs, billboards, store names...

I knew all of my state capitals and nicknames by the time I was in 2nd grade. That being said, Pop was big on international geography too. I will never, as long as I live forget that Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. Someday I will be the winner on Jeopardy for that.

Pop enlisted in the USMC to join the troops in WWII on his own accord. He was stationed in the Pacific Islands, bit twice by a scorpion, and almost died of an appendicitis by luck of bumming a plane ride to the next island and got himself to the infirmary. He was also stationed on the same ship as a very famous person. Once he was told to go guard the potatoes on the ship, of all things, and an officer approached him. The ship was rocking hard and he was looking a little green. With a friendly smirk, the officer said, "Straighten that rifle soldier", tipped his head in a nod and moved on. Years later, he would become president of the United States and most iconic president of all time, John F. Kennedy.

My grandfather is the reason I am a patriot today and get misty over the national anthem or flag being raised. He was proud to serve, but is really, really glad he never had to shoot that rifle to kill a man. (He was an airplane mechanic on the island). Whatever the duty, I am thankful to him and all of the other service man and woman that allow me to live as I do. I am fiercely proud of that.

He is also known as the "Flag Man". He got that name by telling business owners, people, oh and even a U.S. VOTING BOOTH (!!!!), that they had the flag hanging INCORRECTY. Stars ALWAYS TO THE LEFT.

He has these little knee-slapper jokes, that no matter how many times I hear them, always get a reaction from me.

Never separate a man from his danish and crossword puzzle.
He is the biggest worrier ever. My poor family had to constantly fib to him when I was out of town or the country and would tell him where I was when I came back. He would have worried himself to death. I must say he did very well when I schlepped his daughter and son-in-law to Europe last year.

He was burned over most of his lower body as a young boy. An ice cream truck flipped over at an intersection in Trenton and exploded into a fireball. The force of the explosion toppled Pop and another boy, burnning them severely. The other boy did not survive and Pop would remain in the hospital on Broad St. for 6 months. I never saw him wear shorts in my life. We still have the newspaper clipping.

My grandfather lost his very ill wife when she was only 54. He's been a widower for 28 years this past January 1st. He has always lived alone and refused to ever look at another woman in his life. He takes good care of himself, but eats dinner at my parent's house every night.

Because of him, I can invision what Trenton was like in the 1940s and what buildings used to be. I have an appreciation for that era like no other.

He saw my grandmother leaving the cigar factory where she worked one day and wanted to talk to her. He was Slovak and she was an Italian from "the burg" (Chambersburg is where the Italians settled). He learned to say "che cosa รจ sul bambina?" in Italian to get her attention. It literally means "What's up baby?". Slick, no? Needless to say, he got his girl.

My most favorite picture of Teddy, is him sitting half in a cockpit of fighter plane on an island called New Caledonia in the South Pacific. It's a classic 1940s wartime photo. What makes it twice as special is the writting on it.."Johnny 1943 South Pacific"'s my grandmother, Lena's writing. It's a priceless momento.

He is a loving brother. His older sister is 93 and the baby is 80. They call him Janco (pronounced yancko) which is a form of John, his name, in Czech. BTW, I hope those genes were passed to myself and Mom.

Pop will not enter the house on Easter without saying "Christos Voskrese! (Christ is risen!) and me saying Voistinu Voskrese! (Indeed he has).

Growing up he was fluent in Russian, Czech, English, Polish and Slovish. He attended mass said in Czech at the same church he was an alter boy.

He has one daughter, my Mother, who is the nicest person you could care to meet. I think he did well. She doesn't look 60 does she? I hope those genes pass to me too.

He can put more miles on a car just putzing around town or driving down to the military base than any person I know. We call him the "gypsy". We bought him a cell phone last year so we can find him.

He could play the trumpet like nobody's business when he was younger. The USMC wanted him to play in their band. I like big band music because of him.

I grew up watching musicals on his knee. Gene Kelley and Judy Garland are still my favorite actors to this very day.

I can never look at the clouds without thinking it looks like an animal or a flower or a person because of him.

To him, I am "Little Girl" or "Honey Bunny". No one else can ever call me that but him. Mom and I call him "Teddy" short for "Teddybear".

I really wish more people could be as kind, generous, and loving as my grandfather. The world would be a better place.

Happy Birthday Teddybear.
Love always..
Little Girl


At 9:40 PM, Blogger The Kelly Green Rogue said...

Happy Birthday to your Teddy, he sounds like an amazing person!

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Bea said...

Happy Birthday Teddybear! What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

What a great tribute to your grandfather. My grandfather is only a couple of years older and was in the pacific islands during WWII also, but in the army. Hope he had a great day!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Kasia said...

Happy Birthday to your Grandpa the Teddybear! As we say in Polish "Sto Lat!" (which means literarly "100 years" but we just use it instead of Happy Birthday) The story you put together is one of the most amazing tributes I have ever read!
And indeed your Mom doesn't look for her age at all, you have good genes in your blood, girl!

At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Lynne said...

That is such a wonderful tribute. Blessings to your Teddy on his birthday.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Robin said...

How sweet! It was interesting to hear about your grandfather and his life - I hope he had a great birthday! Your wedding photo is beautiful, and so is your mom. My mom is also 60!

At 10:05 PM, Blogger fuzzyb said...

I followed a link here from Ravelry, and I was so moved by your story of grandpa :) A Jersey girl and her Grandpa, nothing is sweeter.

Knit On!
Fuzzyballerina (ravelry ID)


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