Remembering My GoGo by Mike Holz

Remembering My GoGo
by Mike Holz

       Hey everybody, my name is Michael Holz, I’m Ray and Marie’s oldest grandson. So most of you know my grandpa by his name, Raymond C. Principe. To me, he was Gogo, and if we’re speaking technically, according to his license plate, he was Gogo II. And on behalf of Gogo, I’d like to start by using the same words as he always used when entering someone’s home: “God bless all in this house!”

       I know most of us here today are feeling a great deal of pain and sadness over the loss of a wonderful man, but I’d like to talk about something a bit more uplifting and what I think we should really try and make today about: remembering.

       Ever since Gogo’s decline really started to worsen a few years back, the most frequently asked concern I got from my parents, aunts and uncles, and my grandma, was along the lines of, “Do you remember what he used to be like? How he really was?” Everyone was concerned that because of his failing condition, his family, particularly the grandkids, wouldn’t hold as fond and true of a memory in their hearts of Gogo as we should. But I want to assure everyone that this concern is nothing you should worry about.

       First off, yes, I’m old enough to remember Gogo as himself. In fact I have a few particular memories I’d like to share. The first was when I was very young. My dad taught me most of what I know about sports; how to run, how to throw, how to kick, how to bat (though I never really did get the hang of that one!), etc. But before I had really begun to learn any of this, there was one day that Grandma and Gogo took Haley and me to a park. I had a tennis ball and little glove, and Gogo and I were playing an incredibly frustrating game of drop. For those of you who knew me as a youngster, we can all admit, I was quite the dramatic crybaby. Every time he threw the ball, I would swat at it with my glove and I would effectively bat it back across the field to him instead of catch it. Just as I was about to throw a tantrum, Gogo said, “Michael, if you want to catch the ball, you’ve got to let it come to you! Wait until it’s in the glove, then just close. You’ve got to be patient.” He tossed it back, and you would have thought I won the World Series the way I celebrated pretty much my first catch of the day. My Gogo taught me how to catch the ball

       The other big one was bowling. Man I loved it. He would pull up to the babysitter’s house in the big white Cadillac. I’d run down the stairs and he was so excited to see me. Going bowling with Gogo was just the best. I got my own very sharp looking bowling shoes, and best of all, if I bowled well, he even would give me a small pay out! A dollar for strikes, fifty cents for spares. It was always funny though, I noticed how sometimes it would take a while to get there. Gogo was one to opt for the triple-right-turn-instead-of-one-left-turn policy. Eventually, we’d arrive, and during my feeble attempts to start “rollin in the Washington’s”, he taught me another thing at the bowling alley: You take the shot like this, and then, you watch the ball. You don’t turn your back on it. You don’t stand like this and watch, uninterested, uncaring. He explained that I took the shot, now I’ve got to watch it through to the end. There wasn’t a reason in playing if I didn’t give it everything I had and I couldn’t do that without caring about each and every shot…

       These are just two of my favorite and foremost memories of Gogo, though I also have plenty others. So as for me, I definitely still remember Gogo for who he really was. but talking to my sisters and Danny, I’ve learned that they have more trouble remembering the real Gogo, since they were so young when he started to decline. But here’s the thing. Even if they can’t remember many specific events with Gogo, they know exactly who he really was. We really get to know who someone is by experiencing who and what they create and leave behind for us, and in the case of Raymond Principe, his family speaks for him.

       We start with Marie, my grandma, the love of his life. We’re talking about the kind of woman who will give thing to those around her and make them feel like they’re right at home. And when I say anything, I literally mean anything, especially the contents of her always deliciously stocked refrigerator. She’s the kind of woman we can all look to as an example for the ideal Christian willing to help anyone in any possible way. She was there for Gogo through it all, thick and thin, and her courage hasn’t been just admirable, it’s been an inspiration.

       And as many of you know, Ray and Marie had 4 beautiful daughters. The eldest (sorry to call you out!) Julie, my Aunt Juju, has an astoundingly quick wit and a storytelling ability most of us can only wish to possess. Juju is one you can always count on to make you laugh, no matter what’s going on.

       Their second daughter Francesca, known to me as Ankie, is arguably the most impressive story of a positive and resilient attitude that I’ve ever known, despite anything that life can throw in her face. Simply inspiring.

       Their third daughter, my Aunt Paola, is the kind of person who’s care is so often focused on those other than herself that it’s not even remotely surprising to get a random “Hope you’re doing well! Love and miss you!” text or call at any point in the week.

       Their fourth and final daughter, Mary Ellen, I’m proud to say is my own mom. And I may be biased, but I have to say that she’s the best mom who’s ever lived. Both strong and loving in any situation, she works tirelessly to help and care for so many people in her life.

       Gogo has a profound impact on these women as both a father and a husband. They in turn have had an impact on how his grandkids, myself included, have been raised and taught to live.

       You have Elena, my youngest sister and the youngest grandchild. Despite her being one of those obnoxious tween girls now and then, she constantly surprises me with a compassion for others well beyond her years, and has a natural talent for helping cheer anybody up.

       You have my cousin Danny, who I view as my own brother, probably the most physically gifted person I’ve ever met. He knows the value and reward of determination and hard work, and he’s growing into an impressive young man, we all know these values will lead him to great things, both as an athlete and a person.

       There’s Haley. I often call her crazy, but it’s only because I can’t even wish to live my life with the same passion and fire as her. She fully immerses herself in everything she does, and the words “half-speed” don’t even compute in her brain. She’s capable of squeezing every last drop of feeling and experience out of every part of life.

       And then there’s me. What I’m trying to do here is point out that we don’t even have to try too hard to “remember” what Gogo was really like. Gogo was all about this, right here in this room. All of these people, his family and his friends, who he touched at some point in his life both directly and indirectly, and I think we can all agree it was for the better. I’ve known Gogo’s love since the moment I was born, since my parents first held me, for his love helped shaped them into the people who became my parents. And for the first few months after I was born, as if I wasn’t already receiving enough love, he used to come by my parents house every single day, just to hold me for a little bit.

       Gogo was wonderful, caring and strong, funny, and loving family man who left his mark on this world by the people he helped create. So it’s not just those who are my age and older who can remember Gogo for what he really was. You can remember what my Gogo was simply by looking around this room. Remembering isn’t very difficult when you’re living with it all the time, and because of that, everyone here remembers Raymond, the best and truest Gogo.

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