He was the man who first paid my way into Disneyland.
His were the rough hands that taught me right from wrong after I peddled my tricycle to the local market and stole a five cent newspaper.
His clothes were usually soiled each night when he came home from working at the Helms Bakery, one arm loaded with the best sweet stuff ever made, and the other with another kind of sweetness for the woman in his life.
His hair was pepper turned gray, and beads of sweat on his forehead told of the hard knocks life that he had, the kind of life he swore I'd never have.
He threw me my first baseball. He took me to my first major league game, and saw the wonder in my eyes the first time I caught a glimpse of the greenest grass I'd ever seen.
He wiped my tears when I got frightened at the old Indian Village at Disneyland. He clapped with me at the old Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and smiled with me as we ate the most delicious pancakes ever at Aunt Jemima's.
He was my mother's father. Because of circumstances, I never knew my real father...so my grandfather, Carl, was my father for the first seven years of my life. He threw me my first football.
He taught me his love for music - primarily the likes of Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Ray Charles. And oh yes, the Beach Boys.
When my mother remarried, we only moved a few miles away but I cried and cried for leaving my grandma...and grandpa.
We cried and prayed when he had his first heart attack at age 46. But it was on this date 40 years ago that I cried the longest I ever had - when I came home from school one Friday afternoon, age 10, and learned my first lesson in the fragility of life. A second attack took his life...at the age 0f 51.
I've thought about him every day since. How would he feel about what I've become? The kind of man I am now?
He died on January 6, 1967. Some 40 years later, his presence is as strong in me now as it ever was. Thank you for sharing this time with me, as I honor his memory.