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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

I grew up on a little island with a couple of small stores and one country school. The nearest mall was two ferry rides away.

I left Cortes Island twelve years ago, but it stays with me. Its landscapes and familiar places are often in my dreams. I don’t think I’ll ever move back there, but I’ll always be an island girl at heart.

My grandfather came to Cortes sixty years ago to do some work and he stayed. He married a local schoolteacher—my grandmother.

They built a home together. My mother was born in that house down a road lined with blackberry bushes. The “Old Folks Home” is gone now. It was a shed where the elderly ducks and chickens lived in leisure once they were past laying. The sheep ran from us kids when we got too close. We ran from the geese when they strutted towards us and hissed menacingly. So many memories.

We went back recently to attend my grandfather’s funeral. There were tears and laughter as we reconnected with family and reminisced together.

I got to rub my beautiful sister’s pregnant belly. My brother and I laughed while we remembered our friendship and feuding over the years. Family. A huge part of who I’ve become.

At the funeral, I visited with one of my favourite school teachers, friends of my mom’s from before I was born, extended family that I was meeting for the first time, people I hadn’t seen for a decade or two, and the woman who taught me horseback riding when I was eleven. I shook hands with a great-uncle that looked so much like my grandpa that I had to fight tears. There is something very powerful about grieving together. It joined us.

“Mom,” said Myra on the evening of the funeral, “we’re just now meeting family that we didn’t even know existed, and we’ll probably never see them again.”

It’s true. Some of the people that we hugged and shared meals with and cried with—we’ll never see again. But I’m thankful for the time we had together. I’m glad we went home.

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On the ferry

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Goodbye Grandpa

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On March 6th—the day after Melanie’s birthday and two days before Joel’s—my grandpa passed away. Nothing can prepare you for that moment suspended in time, that moment of loss that changes your life.

Most painful was being separate from my mom, my grandma, my brother, my sister. My heart yearned to be with them as they remembered Grandpa together and shed tears together.

Tonight, what really hit me, is that I’ll never see him again in this life. There is a hole left in my heart that can never be filled. Grandpa was special.

Grandpa was gentle. One of the deepest memories I have of Grandpa was of him as a shepherd. As far back as I can remember, my grandparents had sheep. The sheep would sometimes graze on a neighbour’s property up the hill and across the road.

I remember walking with him as he led the sheep down the lane. The shadows were long as the sun sank below the treeline. Any other time the sheep would run away from me, but they trusted Grandpa and they meekly followed him home. Sheep have always reminded me of Grandpa. They’ve always made me feel peaceful.

Grandpa was young at heart. I can hear his laughter now! Grandpa loved to tease and we loved to hate it. He had a song for each one of us grandchildren when we were little. Mine was “Rachel Dawn what’s that diaper you have on” sung to the tune of Delta Dawn.

“Grandpa!” I’d yell and then I’d stomp to show my disapproval. Grandpa’s eyes would twinkle, and his laugh would make me laugh too.

Grandpa was devoted. Grandpa was always there for his family and friends. Twice a year, while their health permitted it, my grandparents would make the two-day journey to see us. Nothing made Grandpa happier than being put to work. He grabbed a hammer and banged the trusses of our house together in the hot sun. He helped to wire our house, or he’d grab a shovel and work the garden.

Grandpa was a great teacher. My love of learning came from my Grandpa. It was his gift to me. When I struggled with math, he showed me the joy of numbers. He knew the balance of showing by example and encouraging. He lovingly tended his garden and taught my brother and me to grow massive pumpkins by nicking the vine and placing it in sugar water. In a moment I’m back there—the black, moist earth. The lush, green vines.

The memory that keeps coming back to me is one of walking with my grandpa. I loved to go with him when I was small.

“You walk so fast, Grandpa,” I said.

He chuckled. “One day you’ll walk faster than me.”

I couldn’t imagine that day. My feet crunched, crunched in the gravel as I took two steps for every one that he took. Maybe if I took big steps like Grandpa, I’ll be able to walk as fast as him, I thought. I stretched my legs and took great strides and we laughed together.

I’ll spend the rest of my life doing that—trying to walk like Grandpa did.

Grandpa

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Petting Lions

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This was me at four with my mom, little brother, and a lion cub.  🙂

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Last week, we got the message that my Grandfather had been air-lifted to the hospital, from his home on Cortes Island. News trickled in throughout the day, and it was later confirmed that he had had a heart attack. Today my Grandpa is safe at home and recovering from the ordeal.
I am truly thankful; the outcome could have been very different. I felt spurred on, to encourage others to cherish your loved ones while they are with you. Isn’t it true, that we often take for granted those who are dearest to us?
My Grandparents have always played a big role in my life. My brother, sister and I went to live with them for a time, when I was 8. They live in the same house now as they did then. I have fond memories of the paper bag lunches that I took to school; especially the ham and cheese sandwiches on home-made bread. Grandma loved to give us all the food that kids love; macaroni with cheese, and ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce.
My Grandmother loves to fish. It was, and still is, her passion. I remember the early morning boat rides; the boat pounding on the waves, until we had found just the right spot. I would let my fingers stream through the water and lick the salt off of them after they had dried. Grandma would help me with the tackle and then I would trail my line expectantly in the water as we trolled.
Grandma’s excitement was infectious and we would both be grinning wildly, as my line bobbed and I reeled in my catch. Strange creatures would emerge from the depths. Sometimes it would be a codfish with bulging eyes and poisonous spines, that left my fingers stinging where I’d touched them. The fish that we caught, always tasted the best.
Grandma would read to us each night. I laugh now, as I think back to those nights. We would be right in the middle of an exciting passage of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and Grandma would nod off while she read. “Grandma!” my brother and I would call out, and she would start reading again. This scenario would be repeated several times each evening, until the chapter was finished and Grandma could have her much needed rest.
Grandpa loved to garden and bake. He made all the bread, pies and cookies. My favourite cookies were the oatmeal ones with a mound of jam in the centre of each. The mouth watering aroma would meet us even before we had opened the door. I would come in tired after a busy day at school, and be refreshed at the sight of all those cookies cooling. We would nimbly munch away, being careful not to burn our mouths on the hot jam in the center.
In grade 7, I fell behind in math. I felt lost and started to dread my class. Mom told me to go see Grandpa, and in one hour, all the concepts that had eluded me, fell into place. I have loved math ever since.
My grandparents live on one acre and there was always an assortment of animals. I remember with a smile, the old folk’s home that was there when I was a child. The old folk’s home was a shed, with an assortment of ducks and geese that were blind and crippled, and long past laying an egg. Those birds had a comfortable retirement.
My grandparents also owned several sheep. Each morning, my Grandfather would lead the sheep to the neighbour’s pasture and each evening, he would lead them home. I would sometimes be filled with wonder, as I watched the sheep follow my Grandfather along the road. I could never get near them; they always ran when my siblings and I tried to get too close, and yet, here they were, calmly following Grandpa.
Sadly, I never got to know my grandparents, on my Dad’s side very well. I just didn’t get to see them very often after my parents split up and my Grandpa died when I was about 11. I wrote to my Grandmother for the last few years of her life and I am thankful for the relationship that we developed. It had been many years, though, since I’d seen her, and I deeply regretted that after she died.
Regret is a very sad emotion and I’d like to encourage others to make that phone call, send a card or tell those who are dearest to you, that you love them. Cherish them while you can.

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