A Long Distance Goodbye

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Someone told me recently that sometimes it is better that we don’t know much about our grandparents’ lives because it preserves our image of them as fantastical features of our memories.

This came after receiving news that my grandfather, Joseph “Pop-Pop” Muschamp, had left us. After months of discomfort, my Pop found peace on June 1, 2015 around 11:30 PM. As I rode the bus to the university on Tuesday, I began writing down all the memories I have of Pop-Pop. I honestly cannot say that I knew much about Pop’s early life but, I can still hear his voice echoing in my head. Whenever I would call, Pop would answer the phone with a surprised “well, hiya Jack!” He always sounded surprised. I guess I should have called more.

Living so far away from my grandparents, I don’t get to see them very often but, when I do, somethings never change. Breakfast at the Manoa Deli (the waitress would ask Mom-Mom “how’s your him?” when Pop was sick), a trip to Kohl’s, and HoagieFest at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s house. Pop would say grace and I always stealthily provided him a second serving of dessert. This was followed by a scolding from Mom-Mom but she could never stay mad for too long (I’m her namesake after all). My mom used to sneak Pop contraband at the hospital in the form of massive Philly soft pretzels, I must have inherited the smuggling from her.

My memories of Pop include specific things like his one dimple, his recliner, his Wheel of Fortune handheld game, his Velcro sneakers (always navy), his #1 Fan plaque (the LeHigh University hockey team used to pick him up and bring him to their games), and his humor. I played hockey in college and sometimes we didn’t have enough jerseys for every player. After traveling to see me play, he made a point of telling my coach that #17, a player who had worn a different jersey, was good enough to have his own team jersey.

My Pop was always incredibly supportive of everything I did, amazed even. He encouraged me to continue playing hockey on boys’ teams and to continue competing against the boys. Yesterday, while running, I was trying my best to keep up with a boy during sprints and all I could think about was my Pop.

Being in a different country, so far away from family, has been the hardest part of this experience. When Pop first entered the rehab center, I sent him a letter nearly once a week. My mother told me that she watched him open one so delicately, not wanting to rip the envelope more than was necessary. He always hung up my cards in his room. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive – my students, my family, and my friends. For those of you who do attend church, please light a candle for Joseph Muschamp. Hopefully all of the times that Catholic school children said “God bless you” to him when he worked as security for the school will guide him.

But in case that’s not enough, here is one more: God bless you, Pop.

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