Honoring Henry

Christmas was always his favorite time of the year.

I didn’t recognize it when I was a little kid, but years later seeing and understanding the absolute joy that man received just looking at my family open Christmas gifts could light up M&T Bank Stadium.

Henry Gerk loved people. Not many folks can say that about everyone. My grandfather cared for everyone around him.

He wouldn’t even want me to call him “my grandfather” either. His name is Henry and that’s what I called him. That’s what he wanted his grandchildren to call him. Not Pop-Pop or Granddad. He didn’t mess around.

He also would scare the crap out of you if you misbehaved. The popular refrain from my parents if I misbehaved usually ended with “wait until Henry hears about this.” At that point, you knew you were in trouble. He was so intimidating on the outside and soft as a teddy bear on the inside.

Henry is currently dying in a hospice care center and isn’t expected to see 2011. He wouldn’t recognize a Christmas tree in his current condition. He has battled through so much in such a short period of time and is about to make his final trip that we all have to take.

Henry loved sports and absolutely acted as the catalyst for why I know the infield fly rule in baseball or how to achieve a triple-double in basketball.

He loved baseball more than any other sport. As a teenager, when the Orioles were great, Henry and I went to at least 13 games a season in section 13. The seats were far from perfect – three rows from the back of the section where a monitor was more prominent than the baseball field. We didn’t care. We were at a baseball game together.

When I went down to the University of South Carolina for my freshman year, Henry FedEx’ed an American League East Champions hat, t-shirt and sweatshirt to me so I could have it to wear proudly for the playoffs. He waited in line all morning at the Warehouse to make the purchase. Yeah, he’s that kind of man. He called me after every win in the playoffs that postseason, beaming with delight after an Orioles victory.

I wish I got to sneak him up to the press box for just one inning. He should see the way I watch a baseball game now. I have a chance to sit behind home plate 82 games a season – and I rarely go more than seven times a year.

I remember him writing down a note when Mike Piazza, at that time one of the greatest hitters in baseball, went 0-4 at the plate one night and left 12 runners on base. Those who follow baseball know exactly what an interesting baseball oddity that is to accomplish.

I watched the classic Duke-Kentucky basketball game with him in the kitchen. I remember staying up late to see Christian Laettner hit the game-winning shot. The next morning, per usual on a Sunday with my grandparents, Henry had Dunkin’ Donuts ready for me when I woke up. Talk about a sweet reward.

Henry hated hate. Not only the action, but the word. If you said the word “hate,” you were corrected to say the word “dislike.” We disliked the Yankees, we didn’t hate them.

Henry loved and adored my grandmother more than anything on Earth. He was the perfect life partner.

Henry also wouldn’t want a column devoted to him. He never wanted the attention. It pleased him more to see a smile or chuckle from someone more than anything else.

Boomer loves you.

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6 Responses

  1. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person. I am so very sorry you are losing him. He sounds so much like my dad – Miles’s “Pop Pop.” The love he gave you will always be with you, I promise. If there is anything I can do, let me know. Hugs 🙂

  2. Your Henry sounds like a wonderful man and what a blessing it is to have so many memories to carry you in the next few weeks. These memories will carry you through.

  3. So sorry about Henry, Chris…and I love his hate..I mean dislike…of the word hate. Sounds like he has meant a lot to you and vice versa. Some lovely memories….dh

  4. Chris,

    What a very sweet Henry column, even though Henry wouldn’t have liked it as you said, kudos to you for honoring him with your heartfelt thoughts and with your words in the best way us writers know how.

    I agree with Donna (in the other response) – hate is a good word to hate. As you adjust to life without Henry in his human form, know that he has taken on the wings of an special angel and I’m sure right now is in Angel Orientation learning how to watch over you and your family until you meet again … Henry The Angel.

    Blessings,
    Suzanne Molino Singleton
    (friend of your mom’s)
    Baltimore, MD

  5. This was so beautiful.
    I’m so proud of the man you have become… Henry was too.

    Aunt Maria

  6. What a beautiful tribute to your “Henry”. Your Mom and I went to NDP for 12 years and I remember your grandfather as such a sweet man. I also fondly remember going to see the Baltimore Clippers games with your grandparents and Sharyn. Ice hockey ranked right up there with baseball from what I recall! My deepest sympathy to you and your family

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