Tom Campbell, who many of us called “Pepa”, was in every definition of the word a “jokster”. He never found an occasion that didn’t call for a joke and he never met a stranger that didn’t soon become his audience. As a grandchild, I had the special opportunity to see him through innocent eyes. I’ll remember days at the river camp, floating on the pontoon and playing in Mema and Pepa’s vegetable garden. I’ll remember his nickname for me- “Petunia”- and the begrudging look I gave him every time I heard it. I’ll remember his endless piggy banks, homemade popcorn and the way Pepa always smelled like Spearmint Gum (which every grandkid remembers stealing from the counter where he always kept it).
I think if there was one lesson that Pepa would want to pass on to me it would be this: Lighten up a little. Take life less seriously. Laugh. Laugh more. Tell a joke. Make a stranger a friend. And, for goodness sake, eat that piece of pie. At least with me, Pepa wasn’t a man for much serious conversation, but every once in awhile, he’d surprise you. Like a few months ago, when he said that marrying Mema was the best decision he’d ever made and that he didn’t think he would’ve made it without her.
Today is a hard day. We are saying goodbye to Pepa in his physical form, but I know we’ll see him again. We’ll see him when we look at Jerry’s face or when we see Mike smile. We’ll certainly know he’s there when we see Dirk proudly watching his own grandchildren play. We’ll hear him when we hear Karen giggle and we’ll feel him when we get a hug from Sheila. And, I think, we’ll see his spirit when we look into Sherri’s kind, kind eyes. And, of course, he’s left behind dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren to continue his shenanigans.
Today, as we say goodbye to our Pepa, I’m going to do my best to honor him by adding a little more humor to my life. We love you, Pepa, and we’ll miss you.
Click here to hear the song the song I recorded for Pepa. “Someday We’ll Look Back” written by Merle Haggard.