WHEELING - They say a person often doesn't know what he has until it's gone. I'll admit you could find me in that crowd more than once in my life, but not with my grandfather.
I introduced you to John Nice in this Thanksgiving column a year ago. At the time he was 4-plus years into a battle with different forms of cancer, but seemed no worse for the wear because of it.
Sure, the grayish-black hair had disappeared due to the serious doses of radiation and chemotherapy, and he seemed a little more tired than usual. Yet still, he was Pop.
Two months and two days after that column a battle that far too few win, was lost.
I've been told that the toughest parts of a loved one passing away are the 'firsts,' or the initial time you have to do something you would have normally done together, alone. Our family has successfully made it through some of those. The first Valentine's Day in 53 years for my grandmother, Mary, a tremendously strong woman who has forged ahead without the love of her life; the first Easter, the first Veteran's Day (Pop served a combined 20 years in both the Army and Navy) and what would have been his 74th birthday Nov. 9.
Now comes the first Thanksgiving, and soon after the first Christmas.
Today, I'm thankful.
I'm thankful he took an interest in everything I did.
I'm thankful he raised a loving family, to the point where when you enter my grandparents' home it's as if you never left your own.
I'm thankful he was there that day, while when in Kindergarten I thought it a good idea to walk halfway across Moundsville to his house after school, without an adult. We lived a block from Park View Elementary and I knew how to get home, but decided as many that age have to not do as I was told.
I'm thankful for the countless Saturday mornings he came home from working midnights at American Electric Power to find me asleep at his house. He would smack me on the foot and say 'C'mon, kid. Let's go get some hotcakes and sausage.'
I'm thankful we stayed up late many a Saturday night watching record-setting BYU quarterback Ty Detmer. Despite the fact Pop was sleeping, I always got a little smirk on my face when he would reveal (yeah, sure) that he was merely resting the back of his eyelids.
I'm thankful that no matter how many of my bikes I left under the back tires of his blue Ford pickup truck, that I was always able to get another one.
I'm thankful for our numerous walks to the Farm Fresh on 4th Street to buy a couple of hotdogs and a fountain pop. I always mixed all the different flavors while he had a coffee - the man drank coffee when it was 95 degrees, with 85-percent humidity!
I'm thankful for his attempting to teach me how to drive by taking me out on some of the worst roads in rural Marshall County.
I'm thankful that he thought it would be funny to introduce me to sardines and oyster stew, because how else would I know how gross they are?
I'm thankful I had enough foresight to forego my usual Super Bowl Sunday routine in 2008, to spend it with him. Fittingly, his last Super Bowl was a Steelers victory.
But more than anything, I'm thankful that he was able to see me become the man I am today. That he was able to watch me get married to the love of my own life, and he was in the waiting room as we celebrated the birth of our daughter almost three years ago.
And I'm really thankful that Bella had the same fondness and connection with him that I did. They formed quite the bond in that short time, and to this day she sometimes looks to Heaven and says 'I love you, Poppy. I said it real loud so he could hear me.'
For that, I thank God.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net