By Juli McDonald

ATTLEBORO (CBS) – Dennis Birch was the dad and the Grampy who came to everything

“It wasn’t big vacations, or extravagant gifts. It was never that. It was always the little things, and time spent together that were really special,” his daughter Kayla Arsenault recalled.

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He’d slip in – always a little late.

“You’d kind of just look up and, ‘Oh Gramp’s there. Grampy’s here,” Kayla said.

So it’s a cruel irony that the 65-year-old Attleboro man was taken too early. It was COVID, in February.

“We thought until the very end, at least I thought he was going to fight through it and make it. It’s still shocking. It’s unbelievable,” his son Elijah Birch said.

Now as the family sorts through their grief and his things… a joke, from heaven, hidden in a pile of books.

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“It looked really old. I happened to flip through the pages and saw the stamp from Peter Thatcher Elementary School,” Elijah said.

That’s where Grampy’s buddy Cameron now goes to school.

“I said I need to return a book for my Grampy and it’s overdue 51 years! My teacher put her hand on her forehead and just laughed,” 8-year-old Cameron said.

Cameron’s principal said she was just 3 years old when the book was due back. And after all this time, teachers agreed this book belongs with the Birches.

It’s a sweet silly keepsake. But the book Dennis kept too long, could never compare to the memories his family keeps forever.

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“It just feels so special that it’s the same school,” Kayla said. “It feels like a special connection. A link that he’s still kind of with us.”

Juli McDonald