My grandpa passed away on March 4, 2012. Usually I don’t join in on the posting about people online, who aren’t online, but in this case, I have taken something away from his life that I wanted to share. Technically my Papa Jay is my step-grandpa. I didn’t fully understand that until I was older. My dads father died when my dad was 8, so my Papa Jay was all I ever knew. And it wasn’t until I received the phone call that he had passed away, that I understood what that meant to me.
I’m a step-dad to my oldest daughter, Brighton. I’m sealed to her and she is always referred to as my daughter. The step part is a formality on government forms. But when Papa Jay died, it hit me really hard that he was the only example of a step parent in my life, and I never noticed it. Almost all of his ‘other’ family lived out of town, so there were rarely any times that I saw him with them. He was just my grandpa.
I think what hit me hard was that there were never any negative connotations about the whole step thing. On TV or books or movies, the step-parent is always portrayed as the evil one or the odd one out that never fits in. Papa Jay fit in perfectly. He was the first to offer help, and always the first to wonder why you hadn’t grabbed a Coke or Shasta from the fridge in the garage. He was always the last one done cleaning the garage after having the whole extended family show up and carve pumpkins in the garage. And it was impossible to leave his house without a bag of gummy-bears or a box of orange sticks.
He was the sterling example of what unconditional love really is. He wasn’t related to one person by blood in the whole family, but he would have gladly bled for each one. He never treated anyone differently, and nobody ever thought of him as anything other than grandpa. He loved the old westerns, particularly John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Makes sense, he worked hard, loved his family and knew right from wrong. And everyone loves it when they have a grandpa tell them about whatever dang thing is wrong in the world now-a-days and how it used to be. I love hearing those stories and comments. . .
When people would ask me if it was weird being a step dad to Brighton, or if it was awkward, the answer has always been no. I never felt like it was a burden or any extra effort on my part. And truth be told, if you sat in our living room watching Brighton, me and my wife, and you had to guess who she belonged to genetic wise, you would fail. That girl has a sharper wit and faster sense of humor than I could ever buy. . . I’m getting sidetracked. When I got the call that he had died, it really just washed over me that he was my only example of step parenting, and it had worked. His example of unconditionally loving every single member of his family had shaped the way that I viewed being a step parent. He made it look like a badge of honor. Like something you proudly showed off to friends and people you meet. Like it was a natural part of life that was no different from breathing. But most importantly, like it was no different from being blood.
I wish I could have told him that had I realized it sooner.
Everyone will have memories to share at the funeral, and I look forward to hearing the stories that I never knew about. My greatest memory will be when Charity and I were sealed in the temple. Papa Jay and Granny were the ‘example’ couple in our session. It looked like it was a little hard for him to move up and down so much, but it was an amazing sight to watch my grandparents go before me and greet me with a huge smile at the end. That was an incredibly personal experience, and he was a big part of it that day. He went through the temple later in life, and I could not point out a difference in him before or after. He was the same great man.
I have other stories and experiences to share, but the one I want to make known publicly is that anything great I have done taking Brighton as my own daughter, came from living in his unconditional example and love every time I saw him.
Plus, I’m going to miss his naughty jokes he would tell when Granny wasn’t in earshot. . . I know that things like these are supposed to be a little more sappy and sad, but he lived his life unselfishly. He lived it doing what he loved. To me it’s so comforting to be able to look at his life and know that it shaped mine, even though I didn’t know it at the time, and hopefully pass it on.