Wilton Warrior Words — Life, science and holidays

Madeline Pennino

Madeline Pennino

Hearst Connecticut Media

When I was 8, my grandfather brought three large turkey hats to Thanksgiving for my younger sister, cousin and me to celebrate with. The hats were so big that the turkey legs came to our shoulders, and our necks and heads were completely hidden. Adding to the hysterics were our muffled voices behind the thick, stuffed turkeys. Every year since, the ridiculous hats reemerge in conversation after everyone finishes their meals — everyone except for my Poppop, who takes his time savoring each bite, clearing each tasty dish, and quietly giggling at our absurd discussions.

I consider myself to come from a rather close-knit family, each of us valuing the precious time we spend together for various reasons — all of which don’t matter, for they keep us laughing, and make us feel as though no time has passed without each other at all. For as long as I can remember, we’ve had a holiday routine: my mother always cooks the most incredible meals, my Mimi keeps everyone chatting throughout the duration of her visit, my younger sisters entertain us with their goofy observations/comments, I decorate our home floor to ceiling while my dad decorates the exterior of the house, Poppop watches his golf and plays cards with us, and Grandpa brings his beautifully selected and wrapped gifts.

This Thanksgiving is the second without both my grandpa and my Poppop. The table is quieter, and we finish much less food without Poppop taking seconds — maybe thirds. It is truly amazing just how loud the silence is during the holiday season — there is no sensation parallel to the feeling of endlessly waiting for them to knock on the door and join us at the dinner table.

It is difficult to accept that there can be any holidays without Poppop’s laugh and board games, or Grandpa’s sarcastic humor and thoughtful presents. Every holiday we’ve had Poppop’s very own tub of vanilla ice cream, and another pearl from Grandpa to add to our necklaces he bought for all of his granddaughters when we were born.

I remember sitting in biology freshman year and studying Julius Robert Mayer’s discovery of “The Law of Conservation of Energy.” This law governs all life, stating that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but instead passed on, existing in many different forms. It sounds peculiar, but the conservation of energy has served as a great comfort to me these past two years.

Somehow, somewhere, our energies have cross paths, intertwined, and absorbed into one. I carry their memory with me, yes, but I also carry them physically, their transferred energy driving me through the day. My grandfathers’ energy lives on through every laugh, every artistically wrapped gift, every ridiculous hat, and every swing of a golf club. In this sense, Poppop and Grandpa don’t miss a beat — not a single birthday, swim race, beautiful summer day, or Thanksgiving.

Dealing with loss is difficult, most especially during the memory-filled holidays, but I find that learning to accept their departure, and embrace a new relationship — a more spiritual relationship — helps me continue to enjoy the holidays, and truly feel grateful for an abundance of love. As the wise Winnie the Pooh once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” (A. A. Milne).

Madeline Pennino is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.