A Tribute to My Grandfather: ‘Watch out for the Other Guy’
“Watch out for the other guy.”
What do you say about a man who spent 91 years on this earth, mostly in the bustling city of Fall River? If I were to tell you his life story, we would most certainly be here for quite some time, so instead, I’d rather speak about him as the man I knew.
Just a month shy of his 92nd birthday, my grandfather, who we all know as Pep, took his final breath at 3:56 p.m. last Tuesday.
No person, no matter how strong they are, or what their age is, should have the strength to fight the amount of morphine Pep endured this past week. He fought the strong medicine to the end, because he knew, just as we all did, that he wasn’t going out without a fight.
That’s just who he was.
It’s safe to say he was, for the most part, a conversationalist. He loved the little things in life: the laughter from a young child, a hearty plate of spaghetti, and watching the Red Sox play with the closed captioning on (even if they were a bunch of bums that current season). He was stubborn, but he meant well. He was strong-willed and young and heart.
“Don’t get old, kid,” he would always say. “Watch out for the other guy,” as I walked down his narrow spiraled staircase.
I never truly took that saying to heart until recently, nor did I understand its true meaning. “Watch out for the other guy." To me, it was just something old people said because they were overcautious.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Growing up on Eaton Street as a kid felt as though it was just yesterday. Trips with Pep to Lafayette and Kennedy Park, Meme making dinosaur-shaped mac and cheese in the kitchen and Days of Our Lives blaring loudly on the living room television. I’m almost certain that Memere has yet to miss an episode since the show premiered its pilot episode.
I was a fussy kid, but Pep was always trying to get me to eat different things. Look at me now.
Summertime at Pep’s was almost always 100 percent humidity with a chance of sweat-soaked t-shirts. Let’s be honest, it was always hot in that apartment. I remember sitting in Pep’s room by the windowsill where the clothesline was, and with a little help from my imagination, the clothespins were my favorite toy to play with. Hey, I was a kid, there were no iPhones or iPads; to me, clothespins were fun and I wish kids today had that same mentality.
Anyone who has dared to take a seat on Mem and Pep’s couch knows that you’re playing a dangerous game that teeters between “I’m only staying for a minute” to “Oh man, how long was I out for?” That couch, to this day, will always be dubbed “the napping couch."
Fast forward to when I was finally driving, a fresh license in my pocket.
“What kind of car you driving?” Pep asked as he stared out the window for what seemed like 20 minutes.
Every visit was the same questions. “How’s the car? What are you driving now?” He would ask as he rocked back in forth in that ancient-old rocking chair. “Oh! That’s a sharp-looking car!" he would add.
In 2010, I began working at a local radio station.
One day I decided to record one of his stories to play back over the air to let all the listeners hear how interesting my grandfather was. He had hundreds of stories.
To this day, I still get requests from people I don’t know, people who don’t know Pep, but enjoy his conversation, and ask when the next time I’m going to air another one of “Pep’s Pastimes."
“Soon,” I would tell them.
Pep was one-of-a-kind who was full of life.
I miss him so much.
“Watch out for the other guy,” he would remind us.
“I will, Pep,” I would always say back.
It seems as though lately, my career and work have been a bit overwhelming and I’ve failed to balance out family and friends with business. They say you should never regret your life choices if they bring you success, but somewhere along the line, I seemed to forget the importance of family and what little time we all have here on this earth with them.
I wish I could go back and see you more often, Pep. I wish I could do it all over again and hear more of your stories.
That’s when I realized that “the other guy” was more than just a drunk on the road or a careless driver and he knew it. The “other guy” was a metaphor for life’s busy moments. Your job was the other guy, your stress was the other guy. Basically, any obstacle that got in the way of taking the time to visit your loved ones – THAT, to me, was the “other guy” and I wish I would have figured that out sooner.
You always were wiser than you knew, Pep.
Nothing that can be said or done will bring you back to us, but knowing that you’re no longer in pain anymore is what is bringing us all peace.
You're in a better place now and I know you'll continue to be the man that you always were. A World War II MP who fought for this country, for your family. A husband of 69 years to an amazing grandmother who has always showered everyone with love. A father to five kids, a grandfather to six and a great-grandfather to six more.
Watch over us and we will forever promise to watch out – for the other guy.