Dear Tyler and Molly,
Today would have been my Pépère Charpentier’s 90th birthday. I am so sorry that you guys and daddy never had the chance to meet him. He was a very special man, someone that I always looked up to.
He grew up in a very large French Canadian family in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Believe it or not, he had 16 brothers and sisters. That is most likely where he got the motto that there is always room for one more. He was raised during the depression and in order to help the family financially, he and his siblings started the Charpentier Family band and played at showers and parties. Pépère played the drums. He actually met by Mémère while playing at a wedding shower. I really believe that it was true love at first sight that continued to grow for 50 years.
Pépère was a very generous man. He would give you the shirt off of his back if you asked or needed it. He was a barber and a carpenter, making him very unique. He made my first dresser for me (the one that you have both used) and gave me my first haircut. He also loved ice cream and ate it every night, just a scoop. He said it helped him digest his food. I think it did. I know it helped me digest my food whenever I was there! We would have to sit on a special little rug so that we didn’t drip on the furniture. There is one other thing Pépère did every night. When he took his teeth out at night (he had false teeth), he would eat a tootsie roll to get the sticky stuff off of his gums. It would make us giggle until we fell over.
Me, my siblings and cousins giggled a lot when we were with Pépère. He was so silly. He would pretend to walk into the door, fall up the stairs and chase us around the yard whenever we arrived at his house. He would let us watch him shave and we would say: “Shave your tongue, shave your tongue, Pépère.” You got it; he would then pretend to shave his tongue.
You know how I sometimes take a bite of your dinner or a sip of your drink and say, I just needed to make sure it is good before you have it? I got that from Pépère. He did that all the time to us. I will let you in on a secret. I know the food and drink is good enough for you, just like he knew it was good enough for me. We just wanted a bite or a sip and a great big grin in return.
Pépère had a great imagination. He would have loved playing angry dragon with you Tyler and tea parties with you Molly. When we were driving in the car with him and hit traffic, he would tell us that if he pressed a certain button, the car would get wings and we could fly home. We never asked him to press the button, but we also never doubted that the car could fly.
Pépère would also always say, “So I decided.” Sometimes he would decide it was time for us to go swimming (he lived on a lake) and sometimes he would decide it was time to have a little snack. When he would decide to have a cup of coffee, he would let us mix the milk and sugar in. He would take a sip and say: “Yumm – this is the best coffee I have ever had.”
Basically, Pépère was a man who loved me unconditionally. He was someone I could always talk to about anything. This is why I decided to tell you about him on what would be his 90th birthday. It was so hard when we lost him to cancer 15 years ago. However, my memories of him will stay with me forever and will always bring a smile to my face. I promise to share some more stories with you soon. But for now, I hope this has given you a glimpse of the fun I had growing up with my Pépère. I am certain that he is smiling down on all of us from heaven.
True confession of the night: Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear Pépère Charpentier, Happy Birthday to you!