Happy Grandparents' Day, Grandpa David!

April 27 was my father's birthday. He would have been 74. The day also happened to be Grandparents' Day at my niece's preschool. I talked to my niece Izumi, who is four, on the phone yesterday:
    "Hi! I'm Izumi!"
    "Yes, hi! I'm April! I miss you!"
    "I miss you too!"
    "I heard yesterday was Grandparents' Day at school. What did you do?"
    Silence. My sister, in background: "Remember, you had lunch in the gym with Reiko baa-chan?"
    "Oh. Yeah! We ate lunch! in the gym!"
   I spoke to my sister, who worries about how to explain Grandpa David's passing to Izumi: if my sister were to say Grandpa David "got sick," would Izumi become frightened every time someone sneezed? I realized that as the family storyteller, I could take it upon myself to explain her Grandpa's life and death in a sensitive, yet meaningful way:

Dear Izumi,

On April 27, 1950-something, your Grandpa David was born in a Chicago hospital on a cold, windy day. Grandpa David was special from the very beginning. His birth mother loved him soooo much, she wanted to give him a happier home than she could. So one day, when the stork dropped him off on her doorstep, she wrapped him in swaddling and took him to the nearest hospital. There, from a row of gleaming white baskets filled with little pink babies,  Great Grandpa and Grandma picked him out, adopted him, and brought him home. They were so happy! He was their little angel.
     As he grew older, his blue eyes remained blue and his blond hair remained blond, suggesting an Irish-Catholic background, though only God really knows.
    Grandpa David was a mischievous, bright, handsome boy. He went to high school in Euclid, Ohio, where he was a four-time track and cross-country champion, just like your mom.
    When he was 18 years old, on New Year's Eve, he ran away from home and enlisted in the army. He almost wound up stationed with Elvis Presley, but Elvis had a movie to make and was sent off to Hawaii. Too bad. Grandpa David did some stuff in the army and traveled to Japan, where he fell in love with the country and its traditional, yet modern ways. He returned to the U.S. and attended Ohio State University, where he studied to be a creative writer. When he realized that the writing life was totally depressing and futile, he went back to Japan, met Reiko baa-chan, and got married. A Japanese-American stork dropped off your mom and me as little babies on their doorstep, and he spent the next 17 years working and raising a family.
   One day, when he was an older man, he was struck by a serious illness. An illness so rare you should think about it again, because it will never come up, I promise. He went to the hospital, fell asleep and never woke.
      Why? Sometimes that just happens to people, and we don't know why.
     The good news is, now Grandpa David is in Grandpa Heaven, which is right next to Doggie heaven, where dogs frolic amongts giant slabs of bacon and tennis balls all day long. Grandpa heaven is a giant living room strewn about with Laz-y Boys equipped with cup holders. Each Grandpa has his own TV screen that shows Superbowl games and James Bond movies 24/7. The best thing about Grandpa heaven is that they have strict visiting hours for Grandmas coming over from Grandma heaven. They can only nag their husbands on weekdays from 1pm-2pm.
    Yes, Grandpa heaven is a very happy place.
    The only problem is that children are not allowed there. But if you have a message for him, all you have to do is say it aloud, and he will hear you. You might not hear a reply right away, but if you really listen, you might hear a little voice that sounds like a rustle of leaves or whoosh of wind through the window screens: "Love ya, sweet cheeks. Sorry I missed Grandparents' Day."