Then in the early fall, he was sick again. This time it was much worse. Instead of having a very treatable cancerous growth near his jaw, his doctors were talking pancreatic cancer.
I can’t say what kind of father he was, day to day. But I do know he grew up mostly without a dad and that at he took his young family, a wife and two preschoolers (including my wife who was five at the time) and immigrated halfway across the world from his native Armenia to New York. Where through his and my mother-in-law’s hard work they lived the American dream. They owned a home, saw both of their children get married and had a few grandchildren.
I will always remember him most as a warm and generous grandfather to my two kids. I think their transitioning to me watching them full time was so easy because “Babik” was their primary sitter for much of their lives. When it was just him and my oldest, they would play, watch soccer, eat olives and I’m pretty sure they drank ginger ale together. He was always so happy to get there in the morning, especially on the days that she was still asleep so he could brew up some coffee before the start of his day. It was tougher after we added the baby. But he still took them to the playground every day and made sure they were very well taken care of, even though the beginning of his illness was creeping in.
It was an unseasonably cold damp Saturday morning, when I got the call. I actually missed the call but my voicemail alert woke me. I woke my wife and told her that he had passed. She called her mother back and made plans to see his body at the hospital. She left and I looked at my kids and wondered how we would tell them what had happened.
People came up to me at the services and told me how glad he was that I was able to drive him around in his last months, how much it meant to him. All along I thought nothing of it, its just what you do for family. I was honored by speaking on behalf of the family. Though I wish I had told another personal story, perhaps how back when I started dating his daughter she was sure he wouldn’t approve since I’m not Armenian. But once he met me he welcomed me into the family from day one.
The ensuing days were tough. The kids were used to not seeing him at the house, since he was in the hospital so much. But on the day of the funereal we told them that he was going on a trip, that he feels better, and we wouldn’t be seeing him again. They accepted that but, they are four and two. I know every now and then they will ask for him, which is better than forgetting him.