Love’s Echoes

My grandfather died four months ago today. I miss him. But in a way he’s still here. Every day I’m reminded of him in the way that love subtly announces its presence.  He is the reason this blog exists. My Granddad loved telling stories and in doing so made me into a storyteller. So in writing this I’m remembering him, remembering the roots of my family.

Though my children will never have the opportunity to know my Granddad as well as I did, he has a profound effect on their lives. My grandparents were present for every major and minor event in our lives. They accompanied my family on trips, but my Gran and Granddad also took my sister and me on trips. I remember on a drive to the States when my grandfather handed a grim faced border guard a notarized letter from a lawyer stating that he and my Gran had permission to take my sister and me out of the country.

Before my son was born, I talked about my relationship with my grandparents to my in-laws often. My husband didn’t have that same depth of relationship with his grandparents. Part of that was age; my grandparents were young when I was born. Part of it was distance; my grandparents lived close. And also a question of fairly dividing attention; until I was sixteen, it was just my sister and myself on the one side whereas Tex has many cousins. There wasn’t precedent in my husband’s family for that kind of grandparent interaction.

But for my mother-in-law, Zoey, and my father-in-law Pat, my stories struck a chord. They wanted that experience with my son and daughter. To be there. To be present. To be a major part of so many of our family’s memories and to have a relationship with their grandchildren that was entirely its own wonderful entity.

So my in-laws do. My son goes for bi-weekly sleepovers. He visits their farm once a week and has routines and traditions that are his and my mother-in-law Zoey’s alone; ice cream after dinner. As soon as my son walks in the door, my father-in-law Pat sets up the VCR (For the younger generation this is an old style of DVD player.) and put’s on Mini-Tex’s favourite movie. They go out to the garden and say “Hello” to the scarecrow, and he rides the tractor and Mini-Tex takes Pat’s old fishing rod, with the hook removed, out to the boat that’s been parked on the lawn for a decade.

And I encourage it. All of it. Even the visits to the well when Mini-Tex sits up front in the truck with the airbags off. I don’t like it, but I recognize how important it is. The well and fetching water is part of my in-laws life and Mini-Tex loves being in their life just as much my in-laws enjoy being in his. I know from experience that my role in this is to stand back and let that relationship happen. My Gran still comments on this during our twice weekly phone calls- that she and Granddad loved that they were always given access to my sister and me.

I think about how much I loved and still love Granddad and then I invite Zoey and Pat to watch my son’s swimming lessons-it’s automatic. I offer for them to stop by for a quick play while they do errands in town. I send them letters and pictures of the kids when they go south for the winter. I do all of that because my grandfather taught me how to ride a bike. Because Granddad made my math homework take 300% longer because he had to explain how knots work because he sailed even though it wasn’t relevant to the question. Because Granddad used to wheel a TV into my sister and my room at their house and play the Hobbit as we went to sleep every time that we visited.

I include my in-laws every chance I get because I miss my grandfather. Every day. I feel my Granddad’s absence keenly but seeing my children receive what I had – the daily unconditional love of a grandparent, somehow takes the sting out of my grief.

 

All of the Words That Go Unsaid

My sister is the inspiration for this series of posts which will be a departure from my normal humour. During the brief period that she tweeted, Diana expressed multiple times that our Granddad was her favourite person. Immediately after the first time she tweeted this, her next tweet was “How do you tell a person that?” My answer- you just do.

In these next couple of posts, I want to communicate the love and gratitude I feel towards my grandparents. I’ve chosen this particular set of people in my life because at thirty-one, I know I’m running on borrowed time. I’m one of the few people my age with no less than three living grandparents and I recognize how precious and special that is. So without further ado, let’s start with my sister’s favourite person.

Granddad, this post could have been entitled all of the words that go unheard. I love you, even though my voice falls within the exact range of hearing that you’ve lost. I love you even though since you’ve gone deaf, you can’t hear my stories any more. I love you because you are the one who molded me into a storyteller. You’re the reason this blog and all of my ridiculous anecdotes exist. I learned the craft of humour and exaggeration, of careful weaving of details while sitting at the dinner table listening to you talk about gypsy children in Europe. I learned that stories change over time and become better, hyperboles grow and become their own parts of the tale; the bear that the gypsy children led around became more ferocious. You taught me the power in confessing one’s own follies, your frantic gestures conveying your panic as you reenacted tossing coins at the begging children and their “pet”. From you, I learned that every problem is an adventure, and every adventure a story and the bumps along the way only serve to make the narrative more engaging.

Since you lost your hearing, you can’t hear my stories now, but that doesn’t matter because I’m still listening to you. Just as you taught Diana and I to do, because each time you gently beckoned “Come here, I want to show you something”, although the tone was light, it was understood that we were to come now and listen carefully while we were at it. You are teased, somewhat unmercifully for this habit, but even when those explanations meant that my math homework took 80% longer because my Granddad had to explain how nautical miles were calculated even though it was a basic subtraction question which had nothing to do with the speed of ships and had merely mentioned the terminology, I still loved every minute of it. I adored your descriptions of each ingredient’s function in a loaf of bread as you carefully added the warm water, then the salt, then the butter to your delicious dough. Try as I might, my bread is never as tasty as yours.

All of those lessons are ingrained in Diana and me. Every time I mount my bike, I relive your lectures on bike safety; “Let me show you something” pointing to the various road signs, explaining their meaning. It was you and Gran who decided that eight was too old to be riding with training wheels anymore, so the two of you spirited Diana and I away for a weekend, then spent forty-eight hours gripping the backs of our bike seats, running behind us. Not to mention the countless rides we made as a family; you, Gran, Mom, Diana and I traveling along a path towards a picnic spot. To this day, I still hear your voice shouting at me as I approach a hill “Gear down”! Gear Down!” Is it any wonder that I prefer my silver Trek bicycle that you chose for me to a car any day?

I never learned how to dance well, but that didn’t prevent me from delighting in your and Gran’s skill each time that I watched the two of you dance together in the living room, the garage, at the Coyote Cave, or on television when Mom would painstakingly set the VCR to record “Club Dance”. I felt so special and grown up, attempting the steps you would repeat as we moved across the dance floor. I sometimes joke that “Baby Likes To Rock It Like A Boogie-Woogie Choo Choo Train” is the soundtrack of my childhood because I heard it so often. That lesson of life long activity and dedication to one’s passions has stayed with me.

Granddad, I love you, and you are one of my favourite people in the world for all the reasons I mentioned and hundreds more. And even though my son bearing your name probably tipped you off to that, I still wanted to write these words, because you are important; I am so grateful and blessed that you chose to take such an active role in my life.