A cheerful barrel-chested man . He stayed in shape in his elder years by riding his worn red bike, walking the neighbor’s Doberman and knocking around his leather punching bag in the cellar. His physique was tough. His nature was gentle. He took care of his wife, supported his children and played with his grandkids. He enjoyed the woods and knew how to laugh as well as listen. He often wore a smile and the ring of hair left on his head was like a half-blown dandelion. A gentle breeze and I’d wish upon a Pepe.
My wish was that he wasn’t in pain. My dad told me that was my grandfather shrinking into the bed. He had to tell me; I wouldn’t have known it otherwise. Times with our Pepe had been walking to the town Apothecary for a candy bar, checking out his garden on the edge of the woods and sitting on the swing in his back yard. The times with him were not sterile and sad and departing. They were vibrant and fun and see you next Sunday.
That day I had to let him go but I whispered to him that everything was going to be okay. He was a member of the Audubon and would be with the birds now. I would not think of him this way. I would replay scenes of him smashing a nail into a board bare-handed, hear the rhythm of his punching bag in my head and remember the smell of his plaid flannel shirts.
Somewhere along the line, he had suffered silently and suddenly it was too much, even for him. The cancer was suddenly in full view for all of us to admit. There WERE things stronger than Pepe. It took him away quickly but did not strip away our memories. They are eternal smiles of everything he was about in this world. Remembrances of unwritten stories like the Wampus that lived in his garage – and the cool summer nights listening to his saxophone on the breezeway. They are treasured memories of a strong but gentle spirit that has flown to heaven.