Grandfather’s love for a little girl lost and birthdays at the fair…Day 10 First comes Love



Great Danbury State Fair, CT

We always celebrated our birthdays under the Big Top, all red and white stripes with sawdust underfoot.

And the sun bright warmed my skin as autumn air crisped my cheeks a delicate pink, and the sights and sounds of the Great Danbury State Fair called to my little girl heart with all the romance and fun that a state fair can hold.




The Great Danbury Fair Parade, CT

And he would hold my hand.


And hold my heart, too, and he holds it still.

My Poppy.

My mom’s dad Mickey who would have been 105 today, but he died the morning I was laboring life, birthing my third son, although they didn’t tell me until after my baby was born.


Poppy was my stand-in dad during those dark days all swirling crazy when my daddy’s drinking made our home less than peaceful. And it was Poppy who took us to the beach, and the amusement park and New York City.




And him and me, we spent a part of every day together, us living downstairs in my grandparent’s two family house.

Only thing that separated us was October 9, the day between our birthdays, and me his first grand baby and him always saying,

“Us Octobers…we’re the best!”

Me believing it!

And I don’t recall birthday parties with little friends, although there are snapshots.

All I remember is the waiting all year and wishing for the fair, and leaves turning and days growing short, and Poppy driving us — my mom, my sister and our Ma — for what seemed like hours and hours until we finally caught a glimpse of the great Big Man waving us welcome.


And from the Big Top to candy apples, Joie Chitwood’s daredevil driving and stomping-huge Clydesdales, sizzling sausage sandwiches and cotton candy, time stood still for a little girl, and there was no darkness at all that day, only joy and love.

So much love.

Love from one of the sweetest men I have ever known.

My grandfather, a simple, humble man devoted to his bride, besotted with his only child and crazy about his two grand girls.

Full of love and laughter, practical jokes and crazy physical stunts — like the time he climbed a church during his boyhood to retrieve a football lodged near the steeple. A football deflated that he kept all his days and used as a prop, inflating his story with color and life.

And it was Poppy who brought my imagination to life with his tall tales and spooky stories.

Saturday mornings always found me sitting at his kitchen table eating a buttered hard roll and sweet coffee-ish milk. And the story I loved best was the one that frightened me the most.


The Hairy Man.

As the story goes, a large, furry man-creature had jumped out at Poppy’s car, the only vehicle on that long, lonely stretch of road in the wilds of New Hampshire that afternoon in the early fifties.

And this Big Foot-like being gave chase, yelling unintelligibly.

And my grandfather drove faster.

Calculating in his mind how he would protect his wife, mother-in-law and daughter asleep in the back seat should the car get a flat and this beast reach them.

And always, always as the tension mounted with the story nearing its denouement, he would stealthily reach behind him with me too absorbed in the telling to notice, and flick the shade on the kitchen door with such suddenness and rattle that I would jump in my seat and shriek.

And how he would laugh.

And me, too.

He loved to laugh.

And he loved to love. And was loved by all.

He adored my grandmother, his Esther.


Their marriage was full of love and respect and lots of laughter {and only a little raising of his voice once in a while if us ladies were late in getting ready to go somewhere!}

He told me that he and Ma had gone to bed one night with him telling a joke only to forget the punch line {very rare}.

He remembered it at 4 a.m.

And woke his wife, and the two of them talked and laughed till dawn when they had to get up and get ready for their factory jobs. Jobs they toiled at for decades and him with a nasty boss whose wicked ways he defused with humor, and neither having been able to graduate high school for their large families were poor and needed them to work.

And their fairytale love story — from meeting as teenagers at Coney Island to marrying in 1931 during the bleakest time in America’s past, her giving birth in her mother’s bedroom in Ansonia, Conn., after her dad was unexpectedly killed by a hit and run driver, and ultimately her leaving him all broken when she left this earth after 39 years of marriage and a very brief illness that took her at 62 — made me want one just like it as I dreamed of wearing white, and showed a little girl with a broken heart from a breaking apart home that there was another way to do life with your mate.

A true romantic, he returned with his bride to Atlantic City every year on their September anniversary. It was where they had honeymooned.

And every February found him in a little candy shop in downtown Yonkers with arms that were never too busy or too tired to give great big bear hugs full of heart shaped boxes of chocolate in descending sizes.

And he loved on all of us like this despite the fact that his own childhood had been disrupted.

With a father from the Old Country who drank too much and beat too hard, loving too little.

And great grandfather helping to found the first Russian Orthodox church in Yonkers, down in the Hollow where all the immigrants from Eastern Europe had congregated.

Yet not living or loving like Jesus.

And my Poppy, he told me when I was older about the night my great grandfather almost beat him to death as he caught him, a young boy, sneaking back into the house after having stayed out too late, or perhaps that beating was the night my Poppy tried to intervene on his mama’s behalf as her husband took out his frustrations upon her back.

Details may be a little fuzzy, but one thing is clear.

I’m forever grateful to God for sparing Poppy’s life and making him my own.

And I am who I am in part because Poppy loved me.

And love covers over a multitude of sins and love heals hearts. And it is love shared that shows us Christ, even if we don’t speak His name.

For when all the words have been spoken and all the deeds done,  in the end it is only love that lasts…

Happy Birthday, my darling Poppy. See you someday…


Today’s post is Day 10 of a #31days series called First comes Love…

All the posts in the series can be found here. And so you don’t miss a single one, please subscribe here.

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Some fair images courtesy of CardCow.


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14 thoughts on “Grandfather’s love for a little girl lost and birthdays at the fair…Day 10 First comes Love

  1. What great memories of your grandfather! And the pictures add detail to the stories he told. In spite of the hardships and hurts throughout his life, he truly was a blessing to you. God’s grace was clearly experienced in his life! Happy belated birthday to you both….what an awesome thing, that you also shared this specail day together!

    In His Love, Ann

  2. You and Becky (from Time-Out Devos for Moms) have these great memories you’ve shared of your grandfathers today, Sheila. It’s always good to read about men of integrity and compassion, who stood as a solid foundation for their families. I didn’t have that experience, since my grandfathers died either before I was born or soon after. So I envy the experiences you had as a little girl with your grandfather, but am so very happy that you had that great influence to shield you and strengthen you in the place of your neglectful and addicted father. Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute to him with all of us, my sweet friend!

    • God provided my Poppy as a gift to help me navigate those crazy dark years. I am forever grateful. He was a dear heart and good friend as I got older. I miss him still…Thanks, Beth. PS loved your trip photos…so glad you had a wonderful time.

  3. Oh, this is precious! To be loved like your Poppy loved you with an unconditional, bigger-than-life love! What a gift that God gave! Beautiful!

    Deb Weaver

  4. That was a heart-warming story of you and your Poppy while you were growing up. Thanks so much for sharing it and the pictures that look so much like my old pictures…like from the same era 🙂

  5. Beautiful post and pictures!

    Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.


    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions and Connect With God

  6. What a wonderful man your Poppy was! Beautiful story and thanks for sharing. I found you on Monday Memoirs link up.