Saturday, March 17, 2012
I Remember Joseph A. Remar
Today would have been my maternal grandfather’s 100th birthday. More so than almost any other person, Joseph A. Remar was the guiding influence in my life. He helped teach me how to hunt and to fish, immersed me into my Slovak roots, and the joy of sauerkraut pierogies. He turned me on to baseball, and Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer. He was always patient and kind to me, even during the times when I was a little monster – which was most of the time.
Pop Pop was truly old school; the kind of guy that made “Wild” Bill Guarnere look like a hipster doofus. Got a toothache? Rub some Jack Daniels on it! Stung by a bee? Rub some dirt on it! (I saw this firsthand when a bee stung me on the bottom lip as a kid. The mud did not taste good at all.) He drank whiskey (something I could never do), chewed tobacco and would beat you to death with your own arm if you questioned him about it.
His battles with my grandmother (another old school Slovak) were epic steel cage matches. The family rule was: “When they start fighting, be somewhere else.” It was all kinds of awesome.
I started going on hunting trips with him and my dad when I was 10. We’d hunt pheasant and rabbit in his friend’s field, and I’d walk the line with a tiny shotgun. I shot at a few pheasants, but never bagged anything. One day, my grandfather bagged a rabbit and demanded I carry it in my jacket. (Hunting jackets have back pockets. down by the hips.) He put the carcass in there and made me walk the fields with it the rest of the day. As a 10-year old, there’s nothing more gruesome than having a dead rabbit bounce against your arse while you walk. He did it, like he did a lot of things, to toughen me up.
In the mid-90′s, his health started failing. He wouldn’t eat, and he lost a scary amount of weight. At the time, I was dating the future Mrs. Earp, and I wanted to make sure she met “Pop Pop.” As we left his house that day, I pulled him aside and told him, “This is the woman I am going to marry,” mostly because I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance later.
He died in 1994, and part of me died with him. I, and the rest of the grandsons, were pallbearers; but I don’t remember much about the day. I do remember staring at the burial plot after the service, and being partially dragged away by my mother. I didn’t want to leave. The entire day was a nightmare.
I appreciate the fact that he is still with me, a fact that struck me the day after his death. After stagnating on the police academy entrance list for six months, I received the call. They told me I would be going in with the next class, on October 17th – seven months after his birthday. No one can tell me he didn’t have a little something to do with that. When Kyle was born, my only demand was that his middle name would be Joseph. Mrs. Earp agreed.
I miss him so much.
I’ll be going to the cemetery tomorrow, my day off, because I haven’t been there for far too long. I thought about taking the kids, but I don’t want them to see Dad cry.