Trips to go see my grandparents almost every other Sunday are some of my favorite memories from growing up. My mom, brother, and I would drive up about an hour to visit Nana and Bumpa (as my cousins and I call them), and then come home late, fall asleep in the car, and then go straight to bed for the upcoming school week. I am so lucky that I was able to spend as much time as I did with them throughout my whole childhood and have such great relationships with them. Both of my grandparents have done more for me than I could ever thank them for, and taught me so much without even realizing it. Although Bumpa passed away about 8 years ago, I still think about him and everything I’ve learned from him almost everyday.
Bumpa was one of the most hardworking people I knew. He was a U.S. Army veteran and worked for the MBTA for 30 years, dedicating most of his time to his work. He worked hard to provide for my mom and my aunts, and never once complained (even when he got stuck in the Blizzard of ‘78 while coming home from work). Hard work was something he frequently talked to me and my brother about. We would sit with him in the den, where he would tell us how important it is to try our best in school, often slipping us a few dollars for getting A's on our report cards. Now being in college, I’m definitely not getting money for every good grade I receive, but I can say that I learned to work hard in everything I do because of him.
Even though he always wanted us to do well in school, more meaningful than that, I learned from him the true value of education. Bumpa was constantly reading and learning, even in his late 70s, when most would find it pointless. The walls of his den were lined with bookshelves overflowing with books, and there was always a different one sitting on the side table next to his recliner everytime I visited. A lot of times he would go on tangents to me about obscure topics from U.S. history, that at the time I couldn’t fully understand, and admittedly as a pre-teen was not super interested in. More importantly than random facts about Benjamin Franklin, he taught me that you’re never too old to stop learning, and that you don’t necessarily need to be in school to continue educating yourself.
The most important thing to Bumpa without a doubt was family. Almost everything he did in his life was for his wife, children, and grandchildren. Every holiday, he always insisted that our whole family get together, even when he was progressively getting more sick. I’m so thankful that I have those memories from holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandparents, parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, because we probably wouldn’t have gone through the hassle of planning those family get-togethers without him insisting. Especially in recent years, I will always understand the value of family because of Bumpa.
As a kid I didn’t have many strong opinions, but Bumpa certainly did. When he believed in something, he believed in it wholeheartedly, even if it was just about something like the Red Sox. He had very firm beliefs in his religion, but often kept them to himself. I remember one time while visiting he told me “It doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something.” I’ve always remembered this conversation and truly live by it. His quiet, but strong spirituality has definitely led me to also having strong spiritual beliefs, and I’ve found a lot of peace through believing in something, just like he told me.
Before he passed, Bumpa had conversations with multiple people in my family about the song, “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart. He told them how much he loved the song and the lyrics, so much so that the lyrics were printed on the back of his prayer cards at his funeral. This song reminds us all of everything he lived to be: “proud, dignified, and true.”
As much as I wish he were still here, the lessons I’ve learned from him are invaluable and have shaped who I am, even years later. To the wisest, strongest, most caring and resilient person I know - thank you.