A week ago today my father-in-law passed away. Big Joe (Joe Palumbo) got his nickname after his first grandchild, Joey, was born. At least I never remember him being called Big Joe until his namesake was born. When I first met Big Joe (Mr. Palumbo at that time) I was 14. Penny and I had been seeing each other for a week or so and it was time to meet her father. When I told my dad I was going to meet Mr. Palumbo he asked me if I knew who he was. I had no idea other than Penny’s father. He told me he was the best football player to ever play at UVA and that on the football field he was the meanest man he’d ever seen. Needless to say I was a bit nervous but he couldn’t have been nicer. I never imagined at that time 36 years ago that Big Joe would become my father-in-law and that I would grow to love and respect Big Joe that way I do today.
I wasn’t going to write about Big Joe until I woke up this morning and realized I needed to. I needed to for me. When he passed away last Thursday night it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Joe had his wife, Sandy, and his daughters, Penny and Page, by his side with his 6 grandchildren. He passed away and for the next 15 minutes we all just sat there and told stories. I mentioned that I hoped I’d be that lucky one day. To live the life he lived and to have your family with you by your side when you go. And to have love that deep. What more could you ask?
Joe’s passing has inspired me. It’s inspired me to be a better person, a better husband, a better father, and to hopefully one day be a great and loving grandfather. Although Joe is gone his spirit is with all that he has touched. I can see it in my children. Drew has his drive and tenacity, Alex has his warmness and generosity, and Emma has his smile and lovingness.
We are all only here a short time and when all is said and done the real question is what impact will we leave? Are we being the best we can be ever day? Do we tell our love ones how much we love them every day? Do we give to the ones that have less than we do? Do we live every day like it’s our last? No one does all these things every day. But Big Joe came close. I’ve learned a lot from you Big Joe. I love you and will miss you.