On June 24, 2016, I lost one of the most important men in my life, my grandpa. Exactly one week after he entered the hospice program he took his last breath and I said my last goodbye. During this time of sadness, I am comforted with knowing that I live with no regrets, and that I was able to have the best 23 and a half years loving and learning with my grandpa.
I always knew how lucky I was to have Dr. Philip C. Shaak as my grandpa, but these past few weeks, through all the stories, jokes, and tears, it has been greatly reiterated. My grandpa achieved so much in his 90 years. Some included being a WWII veteran [radioman on the U.S.S. APc 29], marrying the love of his life, achieving his Doctorate of Business Administration at Harvard University, as well as starting and teaching the Executive MBA program at Rutgers University.
Over the last few weeks, so many people have shared with me and my family all the incredible things they have learned from my grandpa. From life lessons to career advice, he was knowledgeable in almost every subject you could think of. That got me thinking. As a granddaughter, he has taught me a lot of valuable lessons that he probably hasn’t taught many others, but has impacted my life for the better.
Lesson #1: How to effectively sneak through the house [without the floors creaking] to sneak a few Costco chocolate chip cookies.
He was always so proud of this skill and he also loved eating Costco cookies (especially at midnight) Ice cream was always a plus!
Lesson #2: Always have Costco cookies on hand
If you frequented my grandparents house, even just twice a year, you would know how important it was that the house be stocked with Costco cookies at all times. There were always so many boxes that you could catch yourself more often than not eating a very expired cookie. Either way, there were ALWAYS Costco cookies.
Lesson #3: Be innovative and be creative.
He taught me how to make the best paper airplane (one that could win a contest, if I were ever to enter one) and how to build the tallest Tinkertoy tower. I honestly believe these little creations we’d make together, really sparked my interest into going into a creative field when I was older.
Lesson #4: Have fun, but know when to “cool it.”
You never heard it often, but when you did, you knew it was serious. As much as he loved having fun and telling jokes, he never hesitated to yell “cool - it”.
Lesson#5: Dress to impress (especially on holidays).
Every Christmas, my grandpa would wear these red plaid pants, it wasn’t Christmas unless he did. One day I was shopping and I found a matching pair - I knew I had to get them! So for the last 3 years, me and Grandpa have coordinated our Christmas dinner outfits. Later resulting in him changing his name to Red Pants. This is a special memory the 2 of us shared that I will always cherish.
Lesson #6: Naps are always a good idea.
My grandpa loved taking naps everyday in his “man cave”. He referred to them as snaps because they were short naps. You knew never to stop by during that time and you knew never ever to disturb him during this part of his day. I’ve become the same way. I try to sneak in a nap every day and do not want to be disturbed during this moment.
I am so grateful to have had my grandpa in my life for as long as I did. He always made me aware of how proud he was of me, and swore I could do the impossible. He was there for all of my accomplishments and always saw the best in me, even when I couldn’t. When I told him I was published on the Huffington Post, you would of thought I won an Oscar, the way he reacted.
I’ll never forget that first time I went to my grandparents house to see my grandma after his death, and how hard it was. His absence is so drowning, so deafening, probably because his presence was so immense. Nobody was there waiting at the kitchen table to greet me with a “Hiya!” and nobody was there to show me a cool new article or a funny email. All that was left was his empty chair, and a house full of memories he helped create.
While he is not physically here with me, I know nothing has changed. He is still my grandpa, those memories still remain, and I still am smiling every time I think of him, or someone mentions his name, just like I always have. He might be out of sight, but that does not mean he is out of mind.
Thank you Red Pants for everything you taught me, for all the jokes you told me, all the games you played with me, and all the love you gave to me.
I promise to keep your lessons, your love and our memories close to me, forever. I miss you like crazy, and I can’t wait to see you again someday.
I love you, Red Pants