Chris, getting up from the couch ran her hand across my shoulder - she leaned into me and while gently kissing my lips pushed me backwards. Leaning back into my recliner I closed my eyes and once again, seemingly every day while falling into the arms of sleep - returned to the haunting memories that fill my life with love and a sense of deep loss.
My six-year old granddaughter Christina cried-out - “PopPop I love you more than all the stars in the sky.” I picked her up and holding her at arm’s length replied ,”Sweetheart I’ll love you forever - you are my little girl, my ‘Princess’.” Then, pulling her into my chest and arms I hugged her and my mind replayed the joy and love of the past six years - remembering her birth, first bath, first step, first word, and first day in school - she was indeed a deep part of my life.
I left for work early that morning to prepare for a business trip - a three-day “Fitness Conference” conference in Atlanta. Caden, now seven years old and Christina, 10, had stayed overnight as they often did - and were preparing for school. I gave them both hugs and kisses, Caden said - “have a great time PopPop”’ Christina said, “I love you Poppa (that’s what she calls me now). Although only 10 (going on 11) she had a cell phone and would text me at times. Texting each other is when my “secret” code started - “ILYMTATSITU” - although she loved me “sky”, I loved her “universe.”
Christina was now 11, it was a school night and I sat at her bedside to tuck her in and tell her a story. This night was to be different, she asked me - “Poppa sing me a song.” It took me only seconds scanning my mind for a song that describes how I feel and what she means - I sat back and without hesitation began - “I’ve got you under my skin, I’ve got you deep in the heart of me - so deep in my heart you’re really a part of me - I’ve got you under my skin.”
Leaning over her I tucked the covers under her chin, and kissed her forehead. I smiled and said goodnight - Chris standing at the door smiled, Christina kissed me good night, and turned on her side. And so came the end of yet another day of love. I went to sleep that night embraced by Chris’ love and the sound of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons echoing in my mind.
More than three years of faith, hope and love has passed and soon my life will change from knowing they are close - to knowing they are far away. I’ll not have them overnight any more, that’s gone - I won’t have daily contact and conversation - I won’t be able to look into their eyes. What I will miss most is the whispered moments in which my heart hears their words - “I love you.”
And now, at least for the present, as I fall asleep each night I hear these words echo in my mind and heart - “Don’t you know little fool you never can win - use your mentality, wake up to reality - but each time I do just the thought of you - makes me stop before I begin, ‘cause I’ve got you under my skin.” I do, I do.