Sunday, September 08, 2019

Eulogy for a Fabulous Grandfather

By Jocelyn Guggenheim

"Eulogy for Pa Rick"

I became involved in my grandfather’s medical care about a year ago. Quickly I realized he had no business being alive. His heart and brain had worked through injuries that would have felled most years ago. But not Pa Rick. His heart and brain were stronger than most. 

He was pretty fascinated by the life he had been given. He often told the story of when he was a teenager, fighting in WWII and narrowly avoided death. He had gotten up to get water in the middle of the night and spotted next to him a grenade that had been faulty and failed to detonate. If it had gone off, he would tell us grandchildren, none of us would be here. 

Rick worked hard to create a life that was worth saving. He and Dee were the quintessential grandparents. They were as supportive, caring and present for us as our parents were.

The home they created was one we could stop in for a meal, a hug, a warm bed or just some company. They picked us up from school if we were injured or sick and they could get there faster than Mom and Dad. 

My grandfather could be impassioned about any subject he found interesting and was happy to start a debate at any time. Religion, politics, biology, you name it.

He could also be a calm and patient teacher. I will never forget when he and Dee

picked me up from the school bus just days after I got my driving permit. Pa said he thought I should drive the 10 minutes home over the mountain. And I was shocked. Dee wasn’t exactly risk inclined and I hadn’t ever driven a car before. And yet away we went, on the state highway with a 55 MPH speed limit over a mountain. I was touched by their confidence in me and their excitement about this new step in my life. Even more touching was the moment when Pa turned to me and very calmly said “some cars don’t accelerate when you go down hill and some need you to apply the break or they will speed up.” I looked down and realized I was going 75 MPH while my grandmother sat wide-eyed in the back seat. But his tone kept me calm and I was able to avoid slamming on the brakes. 

His love for his family was always swirling around his grandchildren.

And when my son was born 5 ½ years ago Pa delighted in Ronen’s love for baseball, even if my Red Sox loving husband turned him into a sox fan. Pa proudly displayed photos of Ronen in his Red Sox hat in various baseball stances on the front door of his apartment in Holyoke. I think he figured he would lure in new friends with the appearance of a cute kid in Red Sox gear before breaking the news that he was a die-hard Yankees fan.

Pa Rick loved being a grandfather and great grandfather and wanted so badly to meet his great grand daughters, Dani Guggenheim and Lily Katherine Scott, both born in August, the month he died. And although they won’t get to experience his playful “last touch” or “claw of pain” (it’s not violent-I promise) the lessons he taught us and stories about him will be passed on for generations to come.

Pa Rick -- Richard Louis Ricci -- died on August 15, 2019 at the age of 93. He will be sorely missed but he lives on in his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Jocelyn Guggenheim, CPNP, is Clinical Director and Director of Pediatrics at the South Boston Community Health Center. She and husband Evan Guggenheim are proud parents to Ronen Dante and Dani Marcella Guggenheim.

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