But as my father left, forever dropping the paternal baton, there was someone poised, waiting on the side lines to pick it up and run with it: my grandfather.
The memories I have of this sweet, gentle man are a patchwork quilt of snapshots and scents and sayings: His camel construction boots and faded flannel shirts, religiously bought from a Sears catalog. Gnarled, sausage-like fingers and downy hair, flecks of charcoal in mostly white.
He let me cut that hair for no other reason than I thought it would be fun, having already chopped off the blonde locks of all my Barbie dolls. Sitting in our small dining room, I would softly pat down the soon-to-be very uneven tufts while needlessly warning him to sit still, that old kitchen scissors unable to cut even paper.
My grandfather was fresh, fragrant tomatoes grown in an a vacant-lot garden, filling our apartment with their tangy scent. He was the Pittsburgh Steelers on a cold autumn day.
He was a macho, Italian-American construction worker who would get on his knees and scrub the linoleum floor for his sick wife. He was plaintive wails in a church upon her sudden death.
He was flawed, a heart irrevocably broken from watching his only daughter tortured by the sights and sounds of schizophrenia.
He was my Grampa, a patchwork quilt which blanketed me with love and kept me safe and made me feel like there was no smarter, funnier girl ever.
He would call me "Teacher" because of how clever he said I was and not just to me, but to anyone who would listen. He would indulge any hobby I had, no matter how fleeting they always were, buying me a camera and a bicycle and a gym membership, because he believed that whatever I did would be the best.
But what my grandfather did most of all would live on decades past him; he set the bar so high that I would fall in love with a man just like him, someone who is incredibly giving and gentle and funny and makes me feel like there is no more beautiful woman in the whole world.
My grandfather passed the baton on and gave it to someone who will never let go.