Your Great-Grandfather Died Today


Sweet baby girl, Your great-grandfather died today.

We were rushing around the house this morning trying to get a few things sorted out and quickly packed so that we could take you and the dogs and drive to Tucson. The plan was to say goodbye, but we were still packing when we got an email from your papa that he had already passed away.

Your dad and I made the decision to try and cobble together a semi-normal day for ourselves and to drop you off at daycare like “normal.” I ultimately arrived at work about an hour late, but I was mentally so far away.

As I drove to work, I reflected on how blissfully happy and unaware you were this morning—as busy packing and unpacking your toys as ever.  It was just another day for you, but I… I would need your smiles to get me through the day. 

I needed to remember your smiles as I reflected on the times your great-grandpa got to hold you, lingering on the memory of your baptism service Last Christmas and how he wouldn’t let you go afterward.  He was so proud of you—so proud of us for committing to raise you in the tradition in which he had raised your papa and in which your papa had raised your dad.

I began to think about all of the things I had loved about Grandpa Doc.  I had only known him for about six years, but I was able to see the way he loved your daddy and your papa and to hear stories of how your daddy’s cousins and aunts and uncles grew up.  There were no strangers in the Danker household as newcomers were quickly assimilated into the family.

Grandpa Doc was a man of great honor, a World War II Veteran, a revered veterinarian, a Midwesterner through and through.  He made everyone feel welcome, no matter how long or how short he had known them.  I had told Grandpa Doc one Christmas that it felt as if I had grown up a member of your daddy’s family the more and more stories they told—generations of laughs and love.  This year, Veterans’ Day felt a little heavier without him, our very own, very brave hero.

I started to wonder about how we would tell you about Grandpa Doc as you got older and what we would tell you.  Would we explain to you that your daddy also had a papa when you learned that Nana and Papa are really your daddy’s mom and dad?  Would you treasure our memories of him as we sat around the kitchen table swapping stories of Grandpa Doc and Grandma Lanie one Thanksgiving five or ten years from now? Would we remember to tell you about Grandpa Doc’s toupee or his false teeth or the way that he always used our visits to Sun City West as an excuse to meet us at In ‘n Out Burger?

The weight and responsibility of passing on an entire legacy seems huge.

I’m not sure how we will share Grandpa Doc with you, Baby Girl, but I promise that we will.  I promise that we will play hours and hours of cards at Christmas instead of resorting to screens.  I promise that we will talk about the meaning of Veteran’s Day, the bliss of growing up in close proximity to a lake, and all the special little things that made Grandpa Doc the way he was. AND, I am so, so thankful that your daddy and I do not have to do it alone.

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Danika Danker is a native of south-central Wisconsin and south-central Pennsylvania. She has a BS in Biology and a BA in Spanish from Messiah College (now Messiah University) in Grantham, Pennsylvania. She moved to Flagstaff in 2013 to join her true love, who proposed to her at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She loves telling people about how she met her husband at “boy scout camp,” or Philmont Scout Ranch, a 220 square-mile national high-adventure/backpacking camp of the Boy Scouts of America. Danika is a toddler mom and plans to add a baby into the mix eventually. She processes her experience through reading, writing, and shared experience. The Danker family enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, eating green chiles and spending time with their two golden retrievers, Cimarron and Taos. Both Danika and David have been to all 50 states and are starting over with baby E.


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