Happy, Happy Hiya

Today is Frank’s birthday–a man I referred to variously for more than 20 years as “like a father to me,” my “father-in-law,” and, finally, after I divorced from his son, my “father-OUT-law.”

I called him “Dad,” and, when I was feeling particularly cheeky or affectionate, I called him “Poopsie.” He called me “Sheilsy-babes.”

I loved him. I miss him.

Frank died two years ago, just weeks after my own grandmother. A few months later, my grandfather followed them both. It was a rough year. Three of my beloveds gone in a short, short space.

I’ve been thinking about him today, and feeling so grateful to have known him, to have had him in my life for such a long time. I met him when I was 16 years old and there was never a moment when he didn’t make me feel at home around him. He was affable and curmudgeonly; funny and pointedly opinionated. He loved talk radio, writing letters to the editor of the local paper (and pissing nearly everyone off), egg noodles with cottage cheese, his mother’s pierogies, and sushi. He hated broccoli and loved the Bee Gees. He had no use for euphemism or political correctness and thought it was hilarious to sing Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girl” to me, just to get a rise.

He loved me.

When I was wrestling on the living room rug with his son, he would cry out from his seat at the dining room table, “Don’t hurt her ovaries!” Oh, he wanted grandkids, and he got them from his youngest son (my ex’s child was born after he died), and from me. He loved my kids. When we would visit, he would stick his finger in his mouth and pull it out quickly, making that wet popping sound. My son learned this from him. He would boom out in his big voice, “Hiya!” so often that my son started to refer to him as Hiya. The nickname stuck and he was delighted by it.

He did not believe in stress. He was the happiest person, the most optimistic I have ever known. Sometimes this was stupid. Like when he was busy having a series of small heart attacks over the weeks between my wedding shower and our wedding, culminating with several at our reception…all without telling anyone. He didn’t want to worry us! He almost died while we were on our honeymoon. We rushed home early at the news to witness him being defibrillated an ungodly number of times.

He survived. For another 15 years. Tough. As. Nails.

In our wedding video, he sits in his wheelchair (in which he had lived already for 20 years from a previous illness) on the dance floor, and dances with the bride in the poofy white gown. I stick a napkin on his head, smile and twirl around him.

We had such fun.

I miss you, Poopsie. If you were here, I’d sneak you an extra cookie and sing you some Queen.

Hiya with Rudy
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