Andrew and I left here on March 29th and drove to Woodstock, NB where my grandfather was in the hospital. We were able to sit with him and he knew that we were there. I held his hand and he knew it was me.
Uncle K arrived from Alberta later that night, at 1:30am, actually. We all left the hospital sometime after 2am, leaving my grandmother and my uncle with Grampy. My aunt was completely exhausted, so we went to their house to sleep for a bit. My grandfather passed away that morning, at 7:15am. I think he had waited for my uncle to arrive.
My grandfather came from a very musical family - there were 11 children and as you can imagine, not a lot of money for music lessons, but every one of them could sing. He loved music so much. When he passed away, my grandmother and his son were by his side, singing. We should all be so fortunate.
It was a hard week and it was a good week all at the same time. What made it good was hearing so many great stories about my grandfather. He was a very kind man with a great sense of fun and a great sense of humour. The visitation at the funeral home was a really special time. I think that of all the people who came out to pay their respects there were two that really stood out for me. They really spoke to the character of Grampy.
The first was David. His father who owned the pharmacy where Grampy worked in the 1970s and 80s. He told us how his father had told him on his first day working at the pharmacy, "Now, I want you to follow Donnie - he knows a lot about this business." And my grandfather, seeing his opportunity, took David under his wing... and proceeded to play practical jokes on him. David told me one story about delivering prescriptions with Grampy. Grampy told him this one "eccentric" lady liked for you to ring her doorbell, put the prescription bag on the doorstep and then leave. Needless to say, David did as he was told and as he was walking away he heard a very irritated woman hollering, "Young man, don't you know better than to leave a lady's parcel on the step?" and after a thorough tongue lashing, David got back in the delivery truck with my grandfather who was having a good laugh. Mr. Slipp used to holler down to the stock room, where he could hear David and my grandfather laughing, "Donnie? Are you leading my son astray?"
The second person was the guy who works in the produce section at the grocery store where my grandparents shopped. He told us how much he was going to miss his talks with my grandfather about sports. That was Grampy - always talking about baseball and hockey.
At the funeral, my cousin Andy and I both spoke about Grampy. Andy talked about Grampy's career as an amateur stuntman (chasing rogue lawn tractors, falling off ladders and out of apple trees) and his love of sports, quality cars and music.
Part of the reason I haven't posted this week is because I was trying to sort out whether or not to post what I said at the funeral. I haven't posted anything this personal in a long while, but my Grampy left us with a legacy that I think is worth sharing:
My grandfather was a story teller and always appreciated a good tale. Now that his story has ended, it is our turn to remember and tell our stories of him.
If you talked to my grandmother you would hear stories of a husband who loved and served the Lord in his own quiet way.
If you talked to my Uncle Kendall, you would hear stories of a father who shared his love of music, and who could harmonize and give glory to God with his wonderful voice.
If you talked to my aunt Jan, you would hear stories a father who knew how to do just about anything - from rewiring a house to tending his garden.
If my mother was here today, you would hear stories of the father and mother she missed so horribly that she would follow behind their car when they were heading home after a visit.
And if you talked to my cousins and my brother and I you would hear stories of a grandfather who could give as good as he got - He was forever teasing us about something, and joking around with us. I don't think that we would have had it any other way.
As a result of that teasing, I saw my Grandfather smile a lot. I think that my favourite thing about Grampy was how his smile would sneak up on you. It would start in his eyes with a sparkle and then creep down to his mouth where it would spread into a big, toothy grin. Quite often that smile would escape his body completely in the form a big laugh that you couldn't help joining in.
When I was just a kid, he used to tease me about the boys - did I have a boyfriend yet and what was his name. I, of course, was horrified, and would tell him, "No! Boys are gross." but he would persist. One day, when I was about 6, I came up with what I thought was an ingenius method of getting past him and his boyfriend questions. That day, he asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I replied, confidently, "yes, yes I do". Grampy was surprised by that and asked what his name was, and I replied with the name of a boy whom I thought was quite nice, "Charlie" - Grampy's interest was piqued. "Charlie? Charlie who?" - Uh oh, I was going to have to tell him the truth and knowing that the jig was up, I said,"Charlie Brown." Grampy started to grin, "Charlie Brown? Charlie Brown? The boy in the funny papers?" I was busted. And he was laughing.
Jonathan asked that we share a couple of stories that stuck out in his mind - Grampy was quite good at fixing things, but often injured himself in the process. One time he was in the house, trying to fix an old radio. My grandmother was entertaining a guest in the kitchen. He somehow managed to put a screwdriver through his hand. This story has horrified and fascinated all of us for years, as he told us that he just quietly pulled it out and bandaged up his hand. No stitches, no doctor visit and no tetanus shot.
The other story that Jonathan requested was, I guess, my grandfather's version of dating advice. He told Jonathan, "Remember, diapers are $20 a box." This story is particularly funny now that Jonathan and Kelli have twins.
My brother said that he will always remember how Grampy would stand next to him, elbow him and say, "How's it going, Bubby." and then he would do a little jog and hold up his fists to see if Stephen would do a little boxing with him. (Stephen remembered later the story of the time he was visiting and Grampy fell asleep when he was home for lunch. Grampy's bald head was a tempting, clean canvas for Stephen who was armed with my Grammy's red lipstick. Grampy went back to work with a red happy face on his head.)
Driving around Woodstock these last few days, the memories of Grampy have been flooding back - I drove with my Uncle Don yesterday morning past Connell Park and I remembered Grampy pushing me on the swings. Driving past the church, I remembered slipping into the back pew next to him and trying not to get in trouble with Grammy for acting silly with him during the service. Driving up to my grandparents house, I remember arriving at their house in the summer and pulling a carrot out of the garden. We would clean it off under the tap on the well and sit on the well-house roof munching on carrots. Standing in their kitchen, I remembered Grampy standing at the same window, eating his breakfast and looking out the window. I wonder if he was thinking deep thoughts or if he was just admiring the view now that the old cow barn was finally gone.
I've spent these last few days talking with my Uncle Kendall about the things we have all learned from Grampy -
We've learned to be frugal and to do things ourselves.
We're learned that loyalty is important in relationships.
We've learned to find something we trust and stick with it.
We've learned that music can lift the spirits and can send us on our way.
I think, though, that the most important thing that all of us have learned is kindness.
In speaking with people yesterday, that was the recurring theme - people telling us about Grampy's stories and Grampy's laughs and Grampy's smile and Grampy's kind heart.
I see it in my Aunt Jan and the way her kindness has been repaid by her friends this week. I saw it in my mother in the way she told me that some people just needed us to love them a bit more. I see it in my Uncle Kendall in the way he has been with my Grandmother all week. I see it in my brother in the way he shares stories of the people he knows. I see it in my cousins, Andrew, Jonathan, Jacob and Jenny in the way they treat other people and in the respect with which people treat them as a result. I see it in my father, my uncle Don, my aunt Karen, my husband and in my cousin's wife, Kelli, in the way they love our family... And I can only hope that I show it in my own life as well.
If you knew my Grandfather and if he ever showed you a bit of kindness, whether through a story, or a laugh or a helping hand, I hope that you in turn, will honour his memory by being kind to another.