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"Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul")

I guess we all know of one person in the neighborhood who stays by him or herself and has very little to do with the rest of the community.

You know the type, right? Well, that is not exactly me, though I am not far from it.

I have been married too many times to talk about. In fact, it would be embarrassing to say the exact number. All of the marriages were very good as far as I was concerned, yet ended because I was unable to show love or affection. I found it very easy to be nice, kind and responsible; I mean, what else is there other than being good, kind, honest and responsible?

That is all I ever knew or was ever taught as an orphan living in that terrible orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida.

One day, I was sitting in my house and a little girl showed up at my door. She had dirty hands and chocolate all over her face.

"Don't move and I mean, don't move a muscle," I yelled as I ran to get a washrag.

"Darn kids can't do anything without making trouble for me," I thought as I returned to wash her hands and face.

For the remainder of the day, I worked as a prison guard making sure this little troublemaker did not touch any of my personal stuff. All day long, all I heard was, "Can I have this and can I have that?"

I thought I would pull out what little bit of hair I had left before the day was over. Thank God the phone finally rang and they were on their way back to pick her up. However, oh no! They had not made it back to town and wanted to know if I would keep her for the night. Reaching for the aspirin bottle, I shook my head and told them, "I guess I have no choice."

Later that evening, I put Chelsey to bed and as I was about to leave the room, she looked at me and asked, "Poppa do you love me?"

"Of course, I love you," I hollered. "I'm your Poppa."

Then I closed the door and left the room.

"I love you too, Poppa," I heard her say in a quiet voice through the door.

I rested my head against her door and closed my eyes for just a moment. I immediately swung open the door and stood there looking at her. She looked back with her innocent little face and gave me a little grin. The most unfamiliar feeling came over me. I slowly walked over and sat down on the edge of her bed. She reached over and kissed my rough hand. Something shot through my entire body. I grabbed that 3-year-old little baby girl and hugged her in my arms as tightly I could.

I believe that is the first time in my life that I ever felt the true feeling of "unconditional love." Despite the fact I have four other children and have been married 'X' number of times. I had never known what the true feeling of love felt like, until that very moment and I had never even realized that fact.

Now Poppa and his little sweetheart eat Hershey's Dark Chocolate in Granny's favorite recliner. Well, until Granny gets the broom and chases Poppa and Chelsey to the bedroom, where they watch cartoons and get chocolate all over everything. What a wonderful feeling!

It is true that one must learn to love, before you can truly begin to live, even at age 53.


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