A pop pop is someone that not every girl is fortunate enough to have. I was one of those girls. Even though I have a living grandparent on either side, they were never your typical grandparents. The kind that live nearby, you can go to their house and play, explore all their trinkets, listen to stories, and do puzzles. The kind every kid deserves. But because, as one of my favorite sayings goes, “friends are family you choose yourself”, my parents chose wisely and at a very young age I got myself a mom mom, aunt, uncle, cousins, and, a pop pop. The only real pop pop I ever had. I remember going to their house as a little kid and there was this room downstairs that nobody ever used (as I think is the case in most grandparent’s homes) and on a table was an old picture of mom mom and pop pop, I think their wedding picture. He was in his army uniform and was so young and handsome. I remember looking at it often in disbelief that it was him because he looked so different and now wore a different kind of uniform; a white undershirt, tan shorts, and very tall white socks. I don’t know that I ever saw him wear anything else but that, other than a suit and tie. I know I asked him about the picture and I’m sure he told me stories (most of which probably weren’t true, he was a big jokester and I could never tell when he was serious!) but I don’t remember those. Just the picture. And the way the room smelled. They say that due to words like amygdala and hippocampus (which I’m pretty sure are completely made up) our sense of smell is one of the biggest emotional triggers in our brain and can instantly transport us somewhere. (In this case “they” is nbc.com, pretty cool article check it out here) This particular room was off of the garage and had a faint, somehow comforting, smell of gasoline. They had a front door but we never used it, we always came in through the garage. So to this day, the smell of gasoline reminds me of that house and makes me smile. In fact, I still smell it when I walk into my Uncle David’s house (also through the garage) I guess like father, like son. One year in maybe second or third grade I got terrible heat stroke and passed out in the nurse’s office. I guess they couldn’t get ahold of mom and dad at work because next thing I knew, Pop Pop, who was listed as my emergency contact, came to get me. He set me up on the silky couch in the front room upstairs (the house was divided up in a very strange way but was excellent for hide and seek), gave me ginger ale, and let me fall asleep on him. We loved swimming at their house and I remember sitting at the kitchen counter eating an egg salad sandwich and talking to him as I waited my 30 minutes to go in the water. (Mom mom did not mess around with that rule!) I’ll never forget the sign he had posted on the pool, “We don’t swim in your toilet so don’t pee in our pool!” It captured his sense of humor perfectly. He had a plethora of corny jokes on hand at all times, most of which my father has adopted, and one of his favorite lines after a big meal was, “That ruined my appetite.” I used to rub his shoulders and he’d say, “I’ll give you an hour to stop”. I never really got it as a kid but I chuckle now as I think back on it. He loved his live-in mother-in-law but showed it by torturing her on a daily basis. He affectionately called her “gross mother” which in German means large or great, but I guess because she was technically a great-grandmother and German, he thought he was getting away with something pretty funny hiding behind a foreign nickname. He was jovial and kind and I never heard him raise his voice or say an unkind word. He loved his family and especially his grandchildren, lovingly including my sister and I among them. Even though as long as I knew him he was retired, I never saw someone work harder. He was incapable of sitting still and always had some project to work on. Even when we rented a beach house in the outer banks, he brought his tools and was fixing things around the house. He didn’t stop for anything, when my cousin Alex was a baby he would multitask by strapping him to his chest in his little baby bjorn and taking him for a ride on the rider mower as he cut the grass. It put him to sleep every time! As I got older I didn’t spend as much time with them as teenagers often do, and as his mind started to slip over the past few years I don’t think he knew who I was the last time I saw him. But he still had that mischievous twinkle in his eye and though he couldn’t remember my name, I think he knew that he was my pop pop. He passed away on Friday night and even though we are all so sad to lose him, very soon we’ll see him again but this time, he’ll look like that young man in the picture again.