I remember walking along the beach for hours with my Grandpa… we would catch tadpoles, watch the waves, make sand castles, dig to China, skip rocks, smash rocks together and break them to see what treasure lay inside them… the hot sand on our feet made me skip along until I reached the water and there I would hold his hand and we would splash our way to the store further up the beach. He would buy me a treat, often a popsicle, and then we would make our way back, sticky melting sugar water making a big mess; but we didn’t care. We talked, though I can’t remember what we talked about. Now that I have children of my own I can imagine that the conversation was about everything we saw along the way and I imagine I peppered him with questions about life. Those are some of my favourite memories of him. Those walks that for many reasons stand out in my memories as my special time with him.
He was a quiet, stoic man. His life wasn’t easy. Every ounce of love he had for me had to be masked, hidden, because unfortunately my Grandma wasn’t an easy women. It took years for me to come to terms with that… maybe I am still working on that. Those walks, just he and I, there was no need to hide, no need to pretend. His calloused hand holding my much smaller child one is a tangible thing that I can feel as soon as I close my eyes.
If you went to the cottage you would find Grandpa in the garage, building something usually. I would follow him around and he would let me. No matter what he was building he made space for me beside him and hand me some wood, nails and a hammer and together we would work. The smell of sawdust still takes me back to that workbench; his body close to mine. When the work was finished he would announce that it was time to go to the beach and we would run down to the beach and there, for hours, he would row our boat filled with friends, we would jump off and he would haul us in, just for us to jump off again. He never seemed to run out of time for us. He didn’t say it often… but in his actions we knew we were loved.
As I got older and the visits became harder I would get random cards in the mail from him, reminders that he loved me. Once when I was living in my first apartment on my own I got a St. Patricks day card in the mail. Who gets a card for St. Patricks day? It’s one of the few I put into a special place, to pick up on days like today when I am missing him…
It saddens me to say that it wasn’t until 15 years ago; that I got a real chance to know my Grandpa. He moved in with my parents and for the last 15 years he’s been a welcome and fun part of our family. He made several trips to Europe to visit me while I lived there. We went to Wales, visited Venice and explored Austria together. There are so many things about him that make me smile, so many things that I miss… it’s been almost a month since he passed away; I think I am still trying to come to grips with that.
He was, is, part of me. I see him in myself, I see him in my boys. I thank God for the time we had with him, particularly the gift of the last 15 years. I thank God that he is at peace now, and that one day I will get to hold his hand again. Until then, I will miss everything about him, everything.
Goodbye Grandpa, I love you.