On June 6th, it will be a year since my husband’s grandfather passed away. Sam Sarao was 92 and I have missed him and thought of him every day this year.
Sam Sarao became my grandfather in every way. He believed in me and asked me (every single time he saw me) how much longer I had to finish my doctorate. No matter how I responded he said, “Well, that’s not very long!” He asked me how work was, what I was doing, what my hours were, when I got vacation, what I was going to do next…it was a conversational cycle I could predict.
I remember when my husband and I told his grandparents I was pregnant. To truly appreciate Sam, you have to realize he’s the one driving the conversation and you’re just along for the ride. He was talking about how he ate some donut holes that morning, knowing we would all tell him he shouldn’t be eating those (as his eyes darted to his wife to see her exasperation and his lips twitched into a smile). My husband said, “You know, you’ve got to take care of yourself if you want to meet your great-grandson in 6 months.” Mawmaw exclaimed “Oh my goodness!” while Pawpaw continued his story about the donut shop. She interrupted him to ask if he heard that and only then did he catch on.
At the hospital, we put a 6-hour old Michael in his arms and told him to meet his great-grandson, Michael Sam Sarao. He continued with his story until someone interrupted and asked him if he heard the middle name. Once he realized it, his eyes flew to mine and I nodded and smiled.
The first time I truly was at a loss as a parent was explaining to my sons that Pawpaw had passed away. I had no idea how to do it and still don’t know if I did it right. Every so often one of them will blurt out “Pawpaw is in heaven with Jesus” or “I miss Pawpaw” and then my throat tightens and it’s hard to swallow.
Lately, my sons have become really interested in their names. They want to hear the story of their first name, middle name, and nicknames. It hurts to talk about Michael’s middle name, but the more time that passes, the more I realize that story, which leads to another and another and another, is how we honor and remember him. His name is how we remember.
The pain of losing him is still here and I suspect it always will be. I miss his stories, his laughter, his hugs, the way he loved his family. I miss the stories he told us over and over again. I miss the imperfect man who was the center of his family.