Sunday was ‘National Grandparents Day’. The general public may or may not be aware of this. I can’t honestly say that I remember it every year, or even most years, and I’m fairly certain I only ever knew about it at all because of a few teachers who had their class celebrate it when my boys were in elementary school.
What really surprised me, besides the fact that I remembered it about a week before it was being celebrated this year, was that the first one was celebrated back in 1978. My grandfather has been gone for over 30 years, but he was alive in 1978. Huh.
Then I read on Wikipedia that it didn’t begin in Canada until 1995. A-ha…
So I gathered up a bunch of pics of my kids with their grandparents, scanned them and I made collages using an app on my iPhone [Pic Stitch] to post on Facebook. Hope that they liked them; it was fun to make them and to look at how much the kids have grown and the different places the photos have been taken…and to just remember.
But over the last week, and actually over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about my own grandfather quite a bit. I think there are various reasons that this is the case, so I decided I’d try to get some of what I’ve been thinking about down.
I’ve been missing my grandfather for three quarters of my life. We had a good thing going for a few years and then it felt as if he was snatched away.
I got just over ten years with him, which was great. But also it was barely just the first decade of my life, and it wasn’t enough. Yes, I know that the same sentiment has been shared a billion times, but I’m adding mine to the collective.
Let’s see what I’ve retained. Memories can be so awesome, but I wish we could activate some kind of video playback in our minds to really see them clearly and hear all the voices. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
A grandfather is someone with silver in his hair and gold in his heart.
— Author Unknown
My grampie spoiled his two granddaughters! I can only assume right from birth, but definitely as far back as I can remember. I mean, not crazy-ridiculous spoiling, but he indulged us.
There was the joyous Christmas when he got me my Wendy Walker doll!
And he had fun with us. We spent time on our summer vacations at his cottage-turned-home, right at the beach. While there we had treats of the non-nutritional kind (well, truthfully we had both), some yummy items we never had at home (ha ha mom, sorry it took me a while to understand that was a good thing!)…like Nestlé Quik Chocolate Powder, Orange Fanta and Pop Tarts!
Grampie told us stories, which were more tall tales and of course we fell for them completely. I remember arguing with an elementary schoolmate on the validity of one in particular.
I believe the verbal exchange went something like this:
Me: You know those towers, like the one over by the Agricultural College?
Kid: Yeah, why?
Me: Do you know what is inside them?
Kid: Um, yeah…water.
Me (confidently): No, uh-huh, that’s where Kentucky Fried Chicken keeps their pop.
Kid: No way!
Me: Yes they do!
Kid: No, it’s water. It’s a water tower.
Me: No, it’s red and white checked because it’s owned by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Me: Is, too.
Kid: Wow, we should climb up there and get some!
Several years went by before I realized, for certain, that the other kid was right. I’m not going to deny it, I was disappointed.
This past summer I found an amazing photo of him, my grandfather, looking like a young Hollywood movie star from the 1930s. I just love everything about it. Of course I’ve sat just gazing at it and day-dreaming about this handsome fresh-faced youth, so unlike the man I remember, but yet similar, too.
The best place to be when you’re sad is Grandpa’s lap.
— Author Unknown
Grampie was a hunter, I remember rabbit stews, and ducks and geese clumped together in the yard. Also, the skeet shooting with the clay pigeons, which were deceptively named, thankfully since they were actually just clay discs.
Ducks Unlimited will eternally be tied to Grampie.
And, the best part, at least to my sister and me…the hunting dogs! I remember Lucky, and Trigger, and Hunter, plus all their pups. The puppies were so fun and cute.
And then there was the very last dog that Grampie got with the intentions of being raised a hunting dog: a golden retriever named Gunner. He got a few years in this role, but he was a little more pet/companion, than hunter. Unfortunately, Gunner didn’t get to be his companion for more than a few years.
But he was my grandmother’s companion for next the decade after Grampie passed; a piece of him, so to speak, that may have made losing him a little easier on her. She loved that dog as much as we did.
I always give my grand-kids a couple of quarters when they go home. It’s a bargain.
— Gene Perret
Our grandfather, together with our grandmother, took us to Montreal to visit my father’s brother and some other family. We went to the amusement park that’s on an island (the eastern tip of Saint Helen’s Island) called La Ronde (round in French). It was our first real amusement park experience, and we went on a plane. Two very big deals.
He really did give us quarters when we saw him. I remember quite vividly when he bought me Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna album (1981) at the local pharmacy, a very important memory. And I was reminded of him for many years every time I looked at the fancy white furniture he bought my sister and me (he may have gotten some help from the grandmother here, especially with the fancy lamps) that I used right until the first apartment I shared with my husband.
Also, I can recall going with him to visit his friends, hearing them talking about the local goings on, smelling the pipe tobacco. All the interesting and colorful characters who would have dropped by the house to visit; Francis and Frances Linds, Steve and Gladys Grandy, Pete Peterson, Charlie somebody, the neighbors; Stan, the Browns, the Bubars, down the road the Millards, the list goes on and on…and on.
Then we were in a pretty serious single car accident on the last day of school when I was finishing up the second grade. He and our grandmother had picked us up to take us over to the beach for some summer vacationing, but he drifted off on the ride over, veering toward the ditch. My grandmother yelled to awaken him; he overcorrected and flipped the truck. I remember the motion of the truck turning or tumbling, but it all happened very quickly.
I’ll skip the details, but suffice to say that thankfully we were not too hurt, just a bit traumatized. Grampie’ injuries were the most serious, but it seemed to really affect him deeply, in his psyche; the guilt, I suppose.
Apparently he was never the same after the accident. It was something that we as kids could not understand. I get it a little better because I am a parent, and maybe it will be even more meaningful if and when I have my own grandkids.
That being said, as a kid I was just so sad that he was sad. Something was different.
If I could tell him something right now, I mean if he suddenly appeared saying, “Raina, I can only stay for a couple minutes, sorry I missed the last thirty years, but how’ve you been?” I’d like to think that I could be that honest, blunt kid and tell him that I’ve really, really missed having him.
Tell him that I was kind of angry at him, for leaving me, after just ten years of my life. I’d like to ask him if he let himself die after our car accident. I don’t know that he did or that he even could have, of course, but the thought that he did made my heart ache. It still does.
Tell him that I felt cheated, when my friends would go off with their grandfathers, or they would come watch them at school productions or playing sports. I would admit I had felt jealous of the other kids.
I’d remind him that he had promised to take us to Disney World, but then he got sick. I just wish we’d gotten the chance to go on that trip. I’d wanted that trip so badly.
Age old story of loss, huh?
But seriously, what did I know? I was just a kid who wanted a grandfather, her grandfather.
At this point in my life I just want to tell him how much I loved him and will always love him. And also I wish I could thank him for everything.
I’d like to tell him that more than once I’ve thought I’ve seen him over the years; driving passed me in a car, across a crowded train station. I always knew it wasn’t him, but it would seem so real, at least briefly, every time. Surely because I wanted it to be him, wanted it all to have been a mistake.
How pipe tobacco, ‘All in the Family’, and pink peppermints will always, always remind me of him. And how much I just never want to forget him.
Last December 24th marked his one hundredth birthday. So in honor of National Grandparents Day, I’m glad that I could tell you a bit about my grandfather, and share him and remember him. He will always be my Grampie.
— Raina K Morton September 9 2014
*I hope this is making sense folks, as I am home sick, sick, sick today, really I’ve been hearing the tune from that oldie Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler…except my words are, “Sick…sick…sick as-a dog…sick…sick…sick as-a dog…” on a loop!*
**Today’s title is from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, but I will always hear Barbra Streisand singing it in my head.**
3 thoughts on “I Can Smile at the Old Days”
Great blog and memories of your Grandfather! And thanks for the collage for your Dad and me – it’s just terrific! Love those old photos and can hardly believe your boys have grown to adults already – we really did cram lots of neat times in those past years with you & your sister & your boys too. I miss your Grandfather too – a blustery fellow by times but he sure did love hanging out with you girls, even to taking you on ‘rabbit collecting runs’ so he could make rabbit stew. Yes, you did have some fun times and travelling to Montreal and Yarmouth and hanging out at the beach. And even though you miss him, what wonderful memories you have in your heart. Isn’t that great!
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I miss him too , Rai , and my ongoing wish would be to speak to him one more time , this time , man to man . I never did speak to him on the same level , I was too nervous or apprehensive but now I would enjoy him I’m sure. Nice blog.
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Raina, I was really touched by your blog. I too had a very handsome loving grand-father but I was fortunate enough to have him in my life until just a couple of years ago. He was movie star handsome too….and I’m not just saying that!! Anyways my Papa was the rock in my life and I miss him dearly.
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