Happy 76th, Grandpop.
Yesterday, August 8th, would have been my Grandfather's 76th birthday. He passed away from lung cancer at 64 years old, back in 2005 when I was a teenager. I miss him every single day, and I often cry at night thinking about him.
My parents divorced when I was 5 years old, and I lived with my mom most of the time, seeing my dad on Wednesday nights and staying over his house every other weekend. Since both of my parents worked full time to support themselves and to support me, I spent nearly every waking moment at my Grandparent's house, two doors away from my home. Thinking back I don't remember spending much time with my parents, even though I know I did. All that sticks out in my mind is walking to my Grandparent's house in the mornings before school, eating toast for breakfast, and then heading off to school for the day. After school was done I'd take the bus home, get off at my Grandparent's house and spend the afternoons with my Grandmom and Grandpop. I did this nearly every day for 10 years, and I spent a good 10 hours a day, 5 days a week at their house every summer while my mom worked. They helped raise me, and I learned a lot from them.
My Grandfather and I around Christmas 1995 or 1996
My Grandpop, Mircea "Michael" Jakoweiczuk, was born on August 8th, 1940 in Bucharest, Romania. He was the first son of Zaharia and Anna Jakoweiczuk (who my mom is named after), and he was born during a very turbulent time in history. While I don't know the full story (but desperately wish I did), what I've gathered is this: My Great Grandparent's did well for themselves in Romania. Zaharia was a shoemaker, and Anna handmade many beautiful rugs and tapestries. They lived in a beautiful house. When WWII began, things started to get bad for them. They had to leave everything behind, and I believe they were on the run for a few years trying to avoid the Nazis. I don't know if they were Jewish, or if it was because they were Romanian, but they were hunted. The story goes that they hid out in caves, and one time they were spotted by a Nazi officer. My Great Grandfather had no choice but to kill him with his bare hands to protect his family. Anna and Zaharia had a little girl after my Grandfather was born, and while they were on the run both of their children got very sick. They were able to find enough medicine for only one of them, and their little girl ended up passing away. I can't imagine the pain of having to choose which child to save. My Grandmom said Anna thought about her constantly, even 30 years after her death. Six months before the war ended, Zaharia, Anna, and my Grandpop were captured. They were sent to a concentration labor camp in Germany, stripped of everything they still owned and made to work. While I don't exactly know which camp they were in, I know it started with a "B" and most signs point to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Over 56,000 people died in that camp, but my family survived. They were rescued by American troops when my Grandpop was 4 years old. An American soldier, with the best intentions, gave my Grandpop a chocolate candy bar when he was rescued. Luckily he didn't eat it since his body was so malnourished, I'm sure that could've made him very ill.
After the war, Anna, Zaharia, and my Grandpop lived in Germany for a while. They had another child, my Uncle Wildreo "Bill" and came to the US in 1950/1951. Ten years after my family moved to the US, my Grandpop met my Grandmom and asked her to marry him after two weeks of dating. They had 5 children together and lived an eventful life together until his death.
L to R: My Great Grandmother Anna, my Grandfather Michael, my Grandmother Priscilla, my Grandmother's father James, and my Great Grandfather, Zaharia
My Mom and Grandpop on her wedding day
My Grandpop had many hobbies and lived so much during his 64 years on Earth. He was a mechanic who owned his own business working on fancy cars. He raced race cars and got into an accident so bad that a nearby Priest came and read him his last rights right there on the road. He rode motorcycles, raised parrots - about 200 of them (which I had to help feed every evening), collected coins and antiques. He lived on farms and had horses and all kinds of animals. He spoke Romanian, German, and English. He thought Beanie Babies would make him a lot of money so he bought multiples of all of them (he had his faults). He had a collection of air plants that filled up the greenhouse he built in the backyard, which included a koi pond. He built and flew toy planes, crashing them and working on them again. He LOVED to debate, and when you chose a side, he'd pick the opposite just for the hell of it. He was an amazing cook in his older years and he loved food. He loved to read, and he knew how to do so many things. He taught my mom how to be independent and how to build and fix things. When I spent my afternoons and summer days with him, I was dragged out to all of his favorite places. He had so many friends and so many people who respected him, even to this day when one of my Aunt's posts a Facebook status about him, people always comment about what an amazing man he was. Everyone knew him, and no one can forget him.
I'm so unbelievably sad that he has missed out on so much that has happened in my life. I graduated High School. I went to College. I met the love of my life and married him. I started my own business and have kept it running for five years. I'll have kids someday. And he won't get to see any of it. I can't tell you how much that breaks my heart. While I'm not religious, and I don't know what I believe in, I know he came to me in a dream once a few years ago. In this dream he told me he was proud of me, and it was SO vivid and SO real, I absolutely know 110% that it was him sending me a message. I didn't dream of him before that, and I haven't dreamed of him since (though I regularly wish that I did). I woke up in the middle of the night hysterically crying right after that dream, and I'll never forget it. I don't know what happens to us after we die, but I hope I get to see him again one day.
Grandpop, I miss you.