The day was clear and bright. Rays of sunshine beamed through the windows looking out upon the front porch of my home. The shades were pulled back as they always were during the day, giving us a wide view of the normally tranquil street extending from our end of the cul-de-sac.
Busy with whatever was distracting me at the moment, likely some symptom of the insatiable energy of our twins, Zavier and Zaire, I almost missed the figure that crossed the corner of my eye. Something was off, though, and I paused as my brain tried to interpret the oddity my eyes had taken in.
A man was walking down the middle of the street. Not an odd sight in Minneapolis where I’d grown up, or Chicago, where I’d lived too, but a certified “thing” in this suburban enclave. Even stranger was that I recognized him.
But that couldn’t be the case. It’s an overused cliché, but I actually wondered if I was dreaming. There was no way that it was who I thought it was walking down the middle of my street midday like a scene from a romantic comedy.
Still, the walk, the headphones clipped to his shirt, the duffle bag and laptop bag slung over his shoulder—it was unmistakably my dad. Mel Reeves. I opened the front door and stood in shock and confusion. “I told you I was gonna pop up on you more!” he said, laughing.
After a hug, I called the cavalry. “Boys! Someone’s here!” Small feet pounded up the stairs immediately. The twins popped their heads around the basement door, curious to see who’d entered. “GRANDPA!” their little voices shouted as they fell over each other sprinting to their grandfather.
Immediately, as they always did when they saw him, they jumped into his arms and began peppering him with requests to play and race and wrestle. Pops laughed and soaked it all in, his smile beaming brighter than any of the rays of light shining through the windows.
Mel Reeves was a man of the people. He didn’t care about rewards, accolades or money. He wanted his community to flourish. The work was his life. The work took his time and his energy. It took and took and took and rarely gave back as there was always more to be done.
He accepted that. That is why he so valued the time he spent with those who needed nothing and wanted nothing from him beyond his presence, his grandchildren.
I loved my dad and he loved me. Still, something about being a grandfather brought a new type of joy out of him. Each of them expanded his heart. Our firstborn Quentin and then Cameron. Then our oldest twins David and Christopher, who moved in with us permanently during high school.
Finally the youngest twins, Zavier and Zaire. He’d spend every dime he had to show them a good time, often despite my pleas not to spoil them. He’d take them to games, movies and malls. He’d send them home with shoes and gifts and clothes.
More than that, he would play on the floor with them, chase them, and generally get them “riled up.” When my wife or I would fuss at him about bedtime getting close, he’d just shrug and say, “What can I say? When grandpa’s here it’s time to play.”
We’d roll our eyes and leave him to it. He was having too much fun to put an end to it. His grandkids brought him constant joy. Even just talking about them would make him smile.
Then Cameron passed. Two days shy of his 10th birthday. My father was devastated. He would regularly tell me how Cameron was the grandson most like him. Cameron was the one he just knew was going to follow in his footsteps. Because Cameron loved people with a pure heart.
He would give anyone the shirt off of his back and the socks off of his feet. He shared his grandpa’s heart for anyone in need. My father never recovered from losing Cam. But he continued the work. It was who he was.
He continued to pour everything into his community, his people. And he continued to cherish the moments spent with his grandchildren. From playing with the twins to talking Miami Hurricane football with Quentin, he loved nothing more than seeing their faces and hearing their voices.
Mel Reeves never let his pain stop him from loving those he cared about. He never let any obstacle prevent him from doing what he believed mattered. So despite his busyness, despite his grief, he did what good grandparents do: He showed up. He was present. And he loved on them constantly.
Minneapolis will miss Mel Reeves. My sons will mourn Grandpa.