"Though daylight was fading from the leaf..." ~ Jane Eyre
My grandfather John looked a great deal like Joe Torre and, ironically, had his demeanor. He had dark set eyes, a prominent nose, lots of common sense, and a calm exterior. When Torre left the Yankees, I felt my grandfather's death all over again. I watched countless Yankee games with my grandfather with Torre at the helm; the good old days when Jeter was a newbie and Torre was in his glory as a manager. So when Joe left, it was heartbreaking for me on many levels. Thankfully Jeter is still there, a favorite superstar of my grandfather's.
This week I spoke about highlighting the best men in my life. This post is about my grandfather, John. The post is the eulogy I gave at his funeral, seven years ago. I still remember giving it at the funeral home, and I remember miraculously being able to hold it together for his sake.All of us have been very fortunate that our lives have been lovingly touched by John -----. As a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, brother-in-law, and friend, he exemplified every special quality a person could have. Though my grandfather may have seemed quiet and introverted to many, he was indeed expressive and outgoing. He shared many stories with me that give a picture of how full and special his life has been. Each story fits a chronological picture of his life.
Born in 1919 in Istanbul, Turkey, he came from a strong Armenian family who survived the Armenian Genocide. Among the first stories told are of how he and his mother, father, and brother moved to Astoria, New York, when he was a year old. As a young boy, he and his brother Steven would play ball on the street on 33rd street until my grandmother Haiganoush would call them in for dinner. The house in Astoria also served as a dental office for my great grandpa, Sarkis, and little did my grandpa know that as a baby, his future wife was being brought to his father’s office for dental work. Growing up in Astoria my grandfather was close to his brother, Steven, and he told stories about the two of them convening at Sam’s Candy Shop where they would see Tony Bennett hanging out. I remember one story that is quintessential in portraying my grandfather’s wonderful sense of humor. Vacationing in the Catskills with my grandma Alice’s family when they were both teenagers, he decided to climb the roof one night and play a practical joke on my grandma and her sisters by scaring them as they were sleeping. In 1941 my grandfather’s sense of duty and honor led him to enlist in the United States Army. There he served during WWII in the Signal Core in North Italy and North Africa with the Fifth Army. If any good was to come out of the bad at this time, it was the beautiful love letters between he and my grandmother. He arrived home from the war in 1945 and married Alice ------ in 1946. They spent 57 years together in a loving marriage. At this time he worked in the photo engraving business, making plates for magazines such as National Geographic. In 1947 my grandparents were blessed with a daughter Liz and in 1952 they were blessed with another daughter, Irene. Other special highlights of the later parts of his life included the building of the Catskill house in 1967, the birth of his granddaughter Missy in 1974, and bringing my sister and I home after our birth in 1978.
The special moments we have shared with him are a testimony as to how deeply he touched our lives. For his wife, Alice, her favorite moment with him was when he proposed to her in a movie theatre. For his daughter, Liz, it was the times she spent with him at their home in the Catskills, swimming, barbecuing, and being together as a family. For his daughter, Irene, it was when she and her friend, Maureen rode their horses to the Catskill house and surprised my grandparents as they trotted through the backyard. For his granddaughter, Robin, it was being a young child in the Catskills and waking him up on the morning by tickling his feet and ringing a cowbell that stood on his dresser. For his granddaughter, Missy, it was riding with him on the tractor as he mowed the lawn at the Catskill house.
For me, it was our Strawberry ice cream nights at the rehabilitation center two years ago where we would pig out on Dove Bars and talk about Joe Torre and the Yankees, laugh together about stories I would tell him, and joke that never-ending joke he and I shared about the sparks I had with my college boyfriend.
I would like to thank everyone who supported my grandfather during this illness. We should all be thankful he is finally in peace and with God. May we all be fortunate to live as long a life as he did. When my Grandfather Krikor died, my English teacher at the time noticed how sad I was and she gave me words of comfort that should be taken to heart for all of us who have lost a loved one. She told me that I did not need to miss him, for he was never truly gone. Every morning when I wake up and look in mirror, he is there inside of me in my spirit and will always be there. The spirits of loved ones we love will always remain inside of us. I wish you all comfort and peace with these thoughts.
And to my grandfather, I know your spirit is here and I know you can hear me. I know you will never leave me or your family. You are in my heart and I will see you again. What I wish to express to you in this moment is best said by Johnny Mercer, who wrote the lyrics to your favorite song, “but I will miss you most of all my darling, when Autumn Leaves start to fall...”