I wrote this back in mid-September and just wanted to post it now that some time has passed...
This blog is usually full of hilarity and craziness from the Johnson family, but today I'm writing about something sad... the passing of Ralph Austin, a.k.a. "Pap-Pap."
Unfortunately, by the time Meghan's and I met, Pap-Pap was what may be considered "past his prime," having already gone through heart surgery and suffering a stroke. But even at that stage, I could see the spark that is so evident in the rest of the family. So while I didn't get a chance to get to know him well, I have gotten to know those who were influenced so heavily by him: his family and friends.
From them and their values, I think I have learned something of what it was like to know Pap-Pap. Among them: a strong sense of family and the importance of friends. A love of laughter and sharing good times. A passion for travel, science, camping and sports. I look at the family that he has helped to create and his imprint is all over: grandchildren who work in the sciences, close-knit families with strong bonds, laughter at every family gathering and even everyone's love for playing and watching sports. I can only imagine his pride in seeing his children and grandchildren (and someday great-grandchildren) carry on those values for other generations, and even into other families.
Even though I didn't know Pap-Pap well and can only know what he was like through those who were influenced by him, I am grateful to him - his values helped to influence a family that I am soon to become part of, and for almost three years has welcomed me with open arms and a warm embrace. At the very least, I'm think he would be glad to know that because of knowing his family, I now enjoy camping and watching soccer games! We'll see if NASCAR is next.
From now on, I will be able to know Pap-Pap the person only through stories and photos, but I will learn more of Ralph Austin - the man, the father, the husband, the grandfather - through the wonderful family he and Nana helped create, and I can't think of a better tribute to him than saying what a wonderful impact he had on those who knew him, and how much the people who love them appreciate it.