By Caitlyn Connerty
“Hi Cate, this is Paul,” there is a hoarse laugh at the end of that statement. “How ya doing? Just want to see how you’re doing. Talk to you later hun, bye bye.”
This is one of the last voicemails that I have from Paul Carroll, otherwise known as Bampy. It was from February 11, 2017 – five days before my favorite person and biggest cheerleader would leave us.
He always thought he was so funny whenever he’d refer to himself to us as Paul instead of Bampy – he usually did that when he felt like the grandkids were too busy to call him back or go visit him, but it always came with a laugh at the end. He knew how important he was to each of us, even if we didn’t tell him every day. To those who knew him around Somerville, he was the roofing guy with a Dunkin Donuts cup in his hand. He was the member of the Somerville Lions who soon became their President and shared in the Lions roar. He was a staple visitor to the banks and post offices or Thurston Spa for lunch, but somehow always found the time to go to Costco and buy all of the things he didn’t need. To us, though, he was the core of our family – he provided us with laughter, tears, jokes and memories that we will never forget.
I will be honest – this is not something I’m excited to write. My heart still aches every day knowing he’s not with us anymore. As the first-born grandchild, I got to spend two years with my grandfather all to myself. While I don’t have many easy-to-recall memories from those years before Christopher arrived, I’ve heard stories about them that never fail to make me smile and I always felt like he and I had a very special connection to one another. A few weeks before his passing, I called him up and asked if he wanted to go on a day trip with me. He laughed, “Where are we going?” I responded that we were going to get an oil change and then we could go to lunch. He laughed again, “What kind of day trip is that?” It turned out to be the best kind of day trip. Although we spent more than a couple of hours waiting for my car to be finished at the dealership, we shared more laughs that day than we had in quite some time. At lunch, he sat across from me and ordered a sandwich with French fries – he knew he wasn’t supposed to eat them, but he didn’t care. As he ate, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have someone like him in my life. Even through the difficult moments, I always knew that I could call him and he would be there. I have many memories of my grandfather, but this one always sticks out because it was the last time that we were able to go on one of our day trips. I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live.
As the years passed and more grandchildren arrived – Christopher, Alec, Jake and Juliana – our time together never dwindled, but we now had more people to share our moments with. His heart only grew bigger to make space for us all in there. We each had our own unique relationship with him with different, but somehow the same, memories to share. Christopher’s relationship with him was grew stronger over the last six years before he passed – he was grooming Chris to take over the roofing company when the time came that he could no longer run the business. To Chris, our Bampy was invincible – he never thought that we would have to say that he missed him because he never thought the day would come that he would leave us. I can second Chris on that feeling – I still feel that way. One of Chris’s favorite memories was moving me to South Carolina. He drove with our Bampy in the company box truck with all of my belongings. It was only supposed to be a quick trip down, but their quick trip turned into a five day, 13 state adventure where they found every tourist attraction they could within those 13 states. When they would get lost, Chris would look at Bampy and blame him because he had the map, but his response was “well you’re the one driving!” I can picture the hoarse laugh again after a statement like that. Five days of traveling home and visiting places neither had been gave Chris one of the most treasured memories he could have. We all wish we could have five more days.
Alec is the quiet and kind intellectual of the family. We always joke that he doesn’t belong to us because he is just so smart and thoughtful, where could he possibly have come from? Bampy always acknowledged that about Alec – he had a special appreciation for Alec and his personality, his brilliance and his passion for music. He taught Alec how to drive on Mount Major Highway in New Hampshire; he mainly took on this task because no one else was willing to sit in the car with Alec if he was behind the wheel. Needless to say, our grandfather was fearless. There was no set destination other than cruising around the lake and their conversation consisted of talking about history and the many books that Bampy was reading (as he was always reading three or more at a time). As they joked and laughed, they pulled into the driveway at the lake house and Alec was shocked because he realized he had just driven a car for the first time. Our Bampy had made what Alec had framed in his mind as a stressful endeavor into one of his most cherished memories. Although strong-willed and sometimes slightly impatient, at the core of his being, our Bampy was patient, kind, funny and generous.
Jake and Juliana, the youngest two of our group, have so many memories with our Bampy that it’s hard to choose from. He always liked to pick on Jake, always making some joke or playing some prank on him. Jake’s most cherished memory is one from when he was around eight years old when our grandfather thought it would be funny to play one of his jokes on him. As Jake was running around the pool in his backyard, our Bampy ran right over and tried to push him in the pool. Sadly, Jake went right down on the concrete and rolled right into the pool letting out a scream accompanied by some tears. A moment that could have possibly been traumatic ended up being a moment that Jake would remember forever – that was our grandfather, making jokes and imprinting lasting memories in our minds even out of the not-so-funny moments. He attended almost all, if not all, of Juliana’s basketball games when she was younger. She could always look over and see him sitting in the stands smiling from ear to ear. He was so proud of each and every one of us – I’m fairly certain that he’d have been proud of us no matter what we were doing. Even in her worst moments of basketball, he always encouraged her to play her best. His presence there was enough to make her want to play harder and faster than any other player out there, just to make her Bampy proud.
His favorite place to be was at the lake house on Lake Winnipesaukee. Years ago, when he was more physically able to, he would spend hours doing things around the house to make it look nicer for his guests and family. He loved his boat and I remember so vividly the times when he would take the grandkids to the sand bar to “put us to work!” We would pull right up, throw the anchor down and start lathering up the boat to clean it. None of it was ‘hard’ work, but rather time we got to spend together during the summers that, looking back now, were those small moments that you forget about until you remember them. He would take us tubing, whipping us around the lake until we went flying off and then to Fun Spot where we’d play for hours. I feel grateful to be able to carry those memories of him around with me and even more grateful to be creating new memories in that house and on that boat that he loved so much.
It’s hard to think about him without thinking of the impact he’s made on people. When he married my Nana, he inherited three children with that marriage. Kelley, Mary and Jackie were younger when they got married and hardly knew the impact he would make on their lives. Through the years, he became a second father for them – never taking the place of the late and great Jack Sennott, our beloved Papa – but becoming someone for them to look up to and have as a support system in their lives. They were able to witness just how much he loved my Nana, and later, how much he would love his grandchildren. The support and love he provided them helped make them into the people that they are today. There was no doubt that he was their father, too.
There is no greater impact he had, though, than the one he would have on our Nana, his wife, Paula. What a duo – Paul and Paula Carroll. Thus far, I’ve yet to see a couple work harder to create a life for their family the way that the two of them did. Their unfaltering love and dedication to one another was not just apparent to our family, but to anyone who met them. Even in death, their love still thrives. He’s everywhere for her – whether it’s a coin on the ground or a flicker of the lights – he’s made it known to her that he is still with her. For every big day, whether it’s his birthday, their anniversary or the upcoming Valentine’s Day, she brings him a laminated card to leave on his head stone to always remind him of the great love that they share and the impact he has had on our family. She carries him with her every day by wearing his wedding band behind her own, bringing a piece of him with her on the rest of her journey through this life.
Paul and Paula Carroll built a beautiful life together filled with a strong family, countless friends and a successful business. Over the last year, we have only grown stronger and closer to one another as we continue to grieve the loss of our funny, witty, sassy, strong-willed & foul-mouthed husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend. We continue to celebrate his life by doing the things that he loved seeing us do, whether it’s graduating high school and college, thriving in our careers, traveling to his favorite places or sitting at home and watching The Voice. His absence is still felt every day but there is a feeling of peace knowing that he’s no longer struggling to live the life he always loved to live. To our Bampy – we love you, we miss you and we will continue to make you proud by living this life you built for us.