I wasn't at my Pop's funeral, he died on the May 9th just after Jordan's CI surgery the previous December. I was having panic attacks during that time, because it was the calm after the storm that was Jordan's surgery and activation. Jordan had finally taken off in his new hearing journey and just when I could finally relax, the weight crashed down as it so often does when you are strong for too long. Jordan was able to talk on the phone and hear my Pop before he passed away, thanks to that ci. When I came back home that summer, I rummaged through my Pop's things and took his sweatshirt with his grandkids' names on it and five pairs of his boxer shorts.
My fondest memories of my Pop, aside from when he used to take me to Dunkin' Donuts for a hot chocolate and a chocolate chip muffin with melted butter every Saturday before my Wally Saunders Ballet lessons, were of him sitting on the blue velvet couch, eating a tub of Cookies and Cream ice-cream with a spoon, watching golf on tv, while wearing his boxers.
I sleep in those boxers during the hot Tuscan summer nights.
They don't exactly fit, but they're really comfortable.
My Pop taught me right from wrong. He taught me to respect my Mother even when we fought. He never said a bad word about my father during my parents' divorce, and made a damn good tunafish salad.
He used to make his arm muscles go up and down to show us how strong he was, and always gave me his stubbly cheek when I went to kiss him goodnight on the weekly Friday night that we slept over his house.
Every softball game I played, he cheered in the crowd with pride.
Sometimes when growing up certain people are larger than life to your little girl eyes, the miracle comes when they remain larger than life even when you see them through adult eyes.
When I made mistakes, he told me.
When I did something good, he told me.
He loved my children and all of us unconditionally.
He told me, "Jodi, your family will always be there for you. When you have a problem, ask your family for help."
My Pop taught me strength.
And I returned to my family, to find some of that strength I had lost.
The thing about taking- yourself- back family strength, as opposed to seeking-for-temporary-strength in other random people is that the process requires real love.
And it is love that truly makes us strong in those moments where you feel empty and drained.
I'm back in Tuscany, just a little stronger than when I left.
And I'm wearing my Pop's boxers.