Tribute to Poppy
by Ryan Finkelstein
When one sees a photograph of a loved one that they lost, they usually are overcome by certain emotions. Love for that person, feelings of admiration for what that person meant to you, memories that were shared, or just simply the personality that the individual had.
When I look at old photos of my Poppy (grandfather), these feelings are present but they are also overshadowed by darker feelings that will always persist. I feel disappointment that I had to watch a man deteriorate over time due to a disease that is not fair. I feel some guilt that I did not try harder, despite my young age, to have the patience to get to know him better, and learn the nuances of his personality that I will never get to understand firsthand.
Finally, I wish that he was still here now so that I could get the relationship with a grandfather that has been absent for many years of my life. My Poppy suffered from Parkinson’s disease and while his death was not due to his disease, it was a major contributing factor, and his disease shaped the relationship that I had with him.
I come from a great line of men, who were raised by great men. They have passed the tradition down of father to son generation by generation, each father one day becoming a Poppy. My Dad is the best person I know. He has a kind heart, a great sense of humor, and will be a friend to anyone in need. My Dad, along with my Mom, have given me and my sister everything we have ever wanted even when what we wanted was beyond the means of what they could provide. I mention this because my Dad never lets me forget that he is the man he is today, and more importantly the father he is today, because of his father, my Poppy.
I am not writing this to disparage the years I got to spend with my Poppy or the memories that we shared. I remember very fondly the weekends that my sister and I spent at my grandparents’ house. We would watch sunrise at the beach, and walk the trails at nature preserves. I learned about both of my grandparents’ affinity for photography, and while I never quite caught the bug, I have been known to spot a good picture when I see one. Most importantly I will never forget that while I was playing travel baseball during those years, my Grandmom and Poppy rarely missed a game. I truly cherish all the times we got to spend together, but as time goes on and I reflect, it is hard not to think about what life could have been like if Parkinson’s were not present in my Poppy.
When my Poppy got sick and we all knew that it was time to let go I was presented with a choice. My Mom asked if I wanted to go to the hospital to say goodbye. At the time, I chose not to go because I wasn’t mature enough to put my Poppy before myself. I did not want to see him hooked up to all those machines, and watch him struggle to take his last breaths. Did he miss my presence that day? That is something I will never truly know. If I could go back would I do it differently? Again, I don’t know. I think the right thing to do would’ve been to be there, but I also am glad that I was not there for the scene that my sister described to me later that night, of them shutting off the machines and watching him go.
The night that my Poppy died I remember spending the night in bed with my sister. It is hardships like that where it is great to have an older sibling to lean on. Later that week when we had the service for his funeral I was struck by emotions that I was not expecting going into that event. As I sat there holding back tears, I listened to all the people that loved my Poppy eulogize him. It was through those words of praise that I began to see a much different picture of the man that my grandfather was, who I never fully got to meet.
He was a man with a quick wit and great sense of humor, and while I experienced flashes of that, the Parkinson’s that slowed his speech made this harder to see. As the service went on, as I heard many stories of my Poppy, I grew more agitated by the fact that Parkinson’s took parts of that man away from me before I could realize them. None of this can discount the love that I felt for my Poppy, and the time we got to spend together was priceless, but it is not fair to me that families should go through the pain that is inflicted by this horrible disease.
When I look at my life I can’t help but thank my Poppy for what he provided me with. His wife, my Grandmom, has always been there for me and she has believed in me at times where I don’t even know if I believed in myself. My Dad is my best friend, my mentor, and along with my Mom, the person I lean on most in life. I can also thank him for my Uncle who has been a great friend to me as we have shared many great times together. These people are the pillars of the incredible family that I am blessed with today and they were shaped by the influence that my Poppy had on their lives. I am a culmination of that influence.
I share this message today for anyone who is going through Parkinson’s or has a close family member or friend going through Parkinson’s. Maybe if my experience can get into the right places, which I am sure my Grandmom will take care of, then it can bring awareness about Parkinson’s and the research that needs to be done to find a cure to this awful disease.
I will end this message by speaking to my Poppy.
“I love you and I want to thank you for everything you have done for me. You mean more to me than you will ever know.”
© 2017 Ryan Finkelstein
Editor’s Note: Ryan was 12 years old at the time of his Beloved Poppy’s death. This tribute was written a week before his 22nd birthday.
For further information or permission to share, contact Sheila Finkelstein – email@example.com – (561) 536-3956