Four.

In 2004, I stood at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was hot, tired, cranky, and suffering from the sort of teenage angst that only a 17-year-old who had never been on a date can feel. (Apparently it can be remedied by Avril Lavigne. Because I listened to a hell of a lot of it that trip.)

It was late, the memorial looks beautiful lit up at night. I took a picture of it that night, one that I have framed and can’t wait to hang up. Grandpa walked up to me and said, conversationally, the way he always started to talk to us when he had something really important to say but didn’t want to make a big sappy emotional deal out of it, “Someday, you’ll bring your children here and I hope you’ll tell them about your old grandpa.”

I don’t remember what I said. Probably something profound like, “Oh! Of course!” I do remember being really glad when he walked away to my brother and sister and cousins, because I went behind some column and started to cry.

Because it was the first time that I really realized there would be a time when I was there without him.

I’m getting married in 16 days. And he’s not here. He never met my fiance, and he doesn’t know my daughter. He would love them though; I know that.

He would love Matt for being a wonderful man, the kind of man that he was (sometimes eerily so)- a decent man, a hard worker, and a wonderful father who would do anything in the world for his family. The kind of man you don’t find too often, but I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life three times with Matt, Grandpa, and my daddy, who brought me red velvet cupcakes last night because I had a bad day.

He would love Eva, for being so smart and cute and sweet and mine. He would play with her and teach her so much and painstakingly pick out cards for her birthday that she would treasure just like I do.

I see them together in my head sometimes. That’s weird, isn’t it? He died three years before I met Matt and Eva, but I can see Matt shaking his hand and him playing with Eva as clear as day in my head. That’s weird. Don’t think I’m crazy, please.

I want him at my wedding. We wrote our prayers of the faithful the other night (an exercise in emotional futility that most couples probably don’t have to go through), and it kills me that he’s in one of them and not the procession.

So someday I will go back to the World War II Memorial. And I’ll take Eva. and I’ll tell her about her great-grandfather, who was a wonderful man and made Grandma Susan and  Aunt Colleen and Uncle John and Mommy the people they are and who would have loved her more than anything in the world because I asked him to.

And maybe we’ll even get there before she’s an angsty teen listening to the 2025 version of  Avril Lavigne. 

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