The year was 1968. June 23rd, to be exact. My grandfather looked at my grandmother while they stood on the rainy Sunday Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. “My granddaughter is being born right now.” Or so the family legend is told.
I was madly in love with my Bapa, as I called him. He doted on me. He was my dad, my champion, my protector, my hero and the only man I ever truly trusted in my young life. He ate pepper on everything that didn’t have ketchup on it (sometimes both). He served in the Army as a chef, came home and married the other woman while his friend married the first intended. The couples were inseparable throughout their lives. He loved deeply and truly his children, all five of them (Linda, Louie III, Larry, Lizbeth, and Leslie). He taught faith, love, service, compassion, and had a punny sense of humor. On his dresser in his bedroom he had a naked woman barely covered with a pale green see through nightie. I admired that pinup posed woman.
When he laughed, he could shake the room with joy. When there were problems, he’d pull up a chair, put on a pot of coffee, and walk the troubled through until they felt peace. He was a gifted bass singer and a compassionate soul. Even when I turned ugly from events I had no control over, he loved me.
On the afternoon of his passing, I was on my way to work. Bapa had been put in the VA hospital after my Grandmothers valiant fight to keep him home, but Parkinson’s Plus is a nasty mistress that stole the love of her life from knowing her. Glenn Campbell’s farewell song of, “I’m not going to miss you,” gives me deep comfort now. But the day he passed, I was driving to work down M-131. I’d nearly passed the exit when I heard a voice say, “He is gone, you must come.” I dodged the two lanes of traffic and exited.
I parked, got in the elevator that I’d only been in twice before and pushed the button. A nurse entered on the next floor. “You’re one of the Coleman family, aren’t you?” She asked. “Yes I am, and I already know.” She looked at me funny. “I heard already.” I explained.
Just as sure as he knew when I was born, I felt him leave this plane. Today, I went to church (He’d laugh at me for this) and served safety. There was a young girl there drawing away. I told her I am an artist too. I told her also that if she listens to her heart, she’ll always have art. I told her to trust her heart, listen to it, feel it, and the art would come. A little while later, the little girl came to me with a picture replete with a top hat and the heart on it. A bit after that she showed up with a salt and pepper shaker drawn. I asked her which one did she think was my favorite spice of the two. She looked a bit uncomfortable so I encouraged her by saying, “Listen to your heart, what does it tell you.” She said, “Peper (That’s how she spelled it)” Indeed!
And just like that, I knew he was there. I knew he was letting me know he’s proud of me. I knew he walks with me in spirit. I love and miss him. I wrote this poem in honor of him about 6 or seven months ago. Every family member, before they knew the title, knew it was him. I am pleased to share this mountain of a heart with you today.
I once knew a man as powerful as God who stood as tall as a mountain.
When he laughed, and he loved to laughed, the mirth poured like a fountain.
He fought great wars single handedly, always coming out the winner
Then he’d traipse the seas with single bounds and was never late for dinner.
In winter time he’d grow a beard as traveled as any road is long
but when the chill of air subsided he’d return to youthful song.
His strength was legendary, more than Hercules or Babe and Paul,
He knew the moment I was born a legend once and for all
was told to me in lore and stories for this yarn to the next
at campfires round and blazing hot, I was not perplexed
by the history that flowed through me from his bones to my blood
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