Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Remembering my Papa

My Papa (pronounced Paw Paw) passed away last month. But the truth is, he's been gone for a long time. He has lived with Alzheimer's for at least twenty years, more severely for the last ten. Sometimes I try to put myself in my Grandma's or my Dad's shoes. I try to imagine that it is my husband or my dad that is sitting in front of me, but doesn't know who I am and can't recall the moments we've shared, our life together. But then I fall apart.  

To see my Dad, with his Dad, was truly moving. I have watched my Dad gently stroke what little hair my Papa had left or hold his hand, and lovingly talk to him about his family countless times. Over and over again, he would tell my Papa his name, where he was born, who his wife was, and the names of his children, never lacking in patience. For years, it has yielded almost no response but my Dad never stopped trying, never gave up hope that he might still be in there. 

Over the years there have been small victories, moments of clarity where my Papa spoke up with a remembered name or held on to a hug extra long. These moments were few and far between, but I know they made the harder days a little easier for everyone. A week before my Papa died, my Dad was talking to him like usual. As my Dad was telling him we loved him, my Papa would gently squeeze his hand each time he said it. 

This is not, of course, how we want to remember my Papa. I mention it only as testament to the love his family has for him and to the level of care they gave him. 

Elmer Freeman Newman is who my Papa really was. His mother died when he was 6 years old. He and his three siblings grew up in an orphanage in Waco, tx. He flew in nine missions in a B52 bomber out of Italy in WWII. He graduated from Texas A&M in 1949 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After he got a job in Houston, he let tons of guys from the orphanage sleep on the couches and floor of his Houston apartment while they looked for work. He invented tunneling machines and rock bits for Baker Hughes. He even designed a rock bit that's now in the Houston Science Museum. When my Grandma wanted to throw a luau in the back yard, he entered on a rope swing wearing a grass skirt and performed a wild Polynesian warrior dance. He designed and built (along with my grandma & their kids) the house they lived in for almost 50 years (that my grandma still lives in). He wrote sweet and funny letters to my Dad while he was away at college. He was a square dancer, a skilled fisherman, and snow skiied into his 70's. He made a tradition of taking me to feed the squirrels when I was little. He never failed to greet you at the door with a beer already in hand to offer you. He always held up a "Gig'em" as we backed out of the drive way after a visit. He was married to my Grandma for 60 years and had four sons. Growing up without parents, this was all he ever wanted, a family. What a beautiful life. 

For my Dad's birthday this year, I was planning to make him a little video using some old 8mm footage that we have of my Grandparents when my Dad & his brothers were little (as usual, the present was going to be late). As it turns out, my Papa passed on my Dad's birthday, July 18th. I spent a few days rushing to get this video together in time for the service, and it turned out to be a lovely tribute. To get to see my Papa with his young kids, and to see my Grandma through his eyes is the perfect way to celebrate his beautiful life. The original one I made is much longer, but I have condensed it for this post. My Dad is the oldest brother, so he is the first kid you see. Enjoy! 


dobake said...

What a beautiful tribute, Kate. Your dad looks like your PaPa :) and your Grandma is a pretty lady. Love the video!

Lindsay Howarth said...

Beautiful Kate! Thanks for sharing.

loves peace said...

wow. so beautiful kate. i will always remember your Papa as a sweet, loving man with such an amazing smile. and yes let's talk about how hot your grandma is?! loved this so much.

Kristen Elise said...

So beautiful.

Kimberly Aaron said...

Wonderfully beautiful and sweet ❤ What a precious keepsake!

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