Wednesday, 11 January 2012

For the love of a Grandparent

A dear friend's Gran passed away today and while I never had the privilege of meeting her Gran, I had a silent moment and shed some tears for her and her vast loss as I am aware the impact this woman had on my friend was tremendous.

It also of course, made me reflect and think back on both my Grandmothers and generally on my Grandparents on a whole. Their similarities and their vast differences. Varied memories (both good and bad) came to mind that I had with them, and how their input helped shape, mold and form me into the person I am today.

My maternal Grandmother - Elsie - was probably the one I spent the most time with growing up. Simply because my parents were divorced, and I lived with my Mom. Not to mention the fact that we did live with my maternal Grandparents for a brief time. When I was young, my Grandma Elsie would always play games with us (cards, monopoly, etc) and while I know she always favored my eldest cousin Bruce, when I was very young I didn't see that first hand. It wasn't until I got older that it became evident that my Mom was the "black sheep" in my Grandmother's eyes and that she had little to no time for my Mom and therefore my sister and I by proxy. That however was not apparent until I was much older, and to be truthful I STILL don't know why my Grandmother felt the way she did.

Grandma Elsie's childhood and life was (and still is) shrouded in mystery. However sadly my Grandmother's family who "knew everything" has passed away, so the truth will never be known exactly what went on. But I'm curious of course. Illegitimate children, last name changes and then suddenly changing back, hearing a story once and then a lot of "oh I never said THAT you must be imagining things" when asking to hear a story again,  marriage, divorce, infidelity, questionable fluctuation of  dates of births, immigration dates...just weird weird stuff. My maternal side is a soap opera looking for a place to happen.

My Grandma Elsie was the first person to teach me to bake. I remember sitting in her kitchen, which always had such warm floors, the whole house did as the hot water pipes ran under the floor...brilliance in my opinion - no cold floors - EVER. She had a little glass and iron bistro table in her kitchen that I would sit at and watch. Occasionally I would help stir or crack eggs (A HUGE thrill when you're 7 or so!). And always...ALWAYS help her clean up as we went. She always said "The key to a good chef is cleaning up as you go and afterward!!"

As I got older, and my Grandma Elsie got sicker (she was diagnosed with diabetes when I was about 11 or so and later emphysema from years of smoking), she became cold, miserable, bitter and angry. I'm not sure if these parts of herself had always been there and I had just never noticed or what. Although to hear others speak...this side of her was always there, I just didn't see it until I hit about 13 or so. I try not to recall that cruel dark side of her although sometimes; a lot of times; it's hard not to. Good with the bad ya know? It doesn't mean I love her any less, although as I got older there were times where she really made it difficult. But she was still my Grandma.

My Gramma Marge (Dad's Mom) was just as welcoming when I was a child...into her home and kitchen...and while I didn't learn AS much baking wise from her as I did from Grandma Elsie, as I got older I became aware that things were just as...unstable in Gramma Marge's home as it was at Grandma Elsie's. For COMPLETELY different reasons however. My Grandpa Wally was an alcoholic, when I was young I remember alcohol always around at my Grandparents. At the house and at the didn't matter. Bottles of Labatt's '50' (the stubby glass bottles from the 70's) or Carlsberg Light or Labatt's Blue etched in my mind. I have a memory of it being Christmas, I was probably 6 maybe 7 (at most) and seeing someone's bottle of '50' on the table. I remember picking it up and wondering what it tasted like. I remember thinking it MUST taste GREAT because everyone was ALWAYS drinking them. I wanted to see what the big draw was. I vaguely recall not liking the smell, nor did I like the taste either. I remember thinking How the hell did people DRINK this shit??? I still don't like the taste of most beers although there are the odd exceptions. Most smell of beers or the smell of rye take me to loud, angry, occasionally violent memories in my past...mostly involving my Grandpa Wally. But; due justice being done to him; while he (and the rest of my Dad's side) all loved to drink, I don't think he truly became a full on alcoholic until after he retired. I think until that point he was likely a "functioning alcoholic" before that, but once he my Grandma Elsie and her health decline, I think he became more angry and depressed as his own body betrayed him.

I loved my Grandparents. All four helped shape me into the person I am today. I didn't really get to know my Grandpa Cecil (My Mom's Dad) until I was an adult but I am so very thankful I got to know him before he passed. He was a wise man, with a quick wicked dry sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge. I lived out west when he passed, and I think while they all suffered in their own way before they passed...this quiet, gentle man in my opinion suffered the most in the shortest amount of time. And because he was closest to my Mom it was as if on his death I lost a part of her all over again.

I miss each of my Grandparents for reasons and memories each as unique as they were. Both great and terrible memories have helped shape me - and I am eternally and forever thankful for it. Being thankful for "terrible memories" sounds odd, but I learned so much from them and their mistakes that formed those unhappy memories - so for that...I am thankful and I hold as dear onto the less "than favorable" memories as much as I do the "favorable" ones.

I write honour and in loving memory of my Grandparents...and yours.

For a snippet of time,
Your world enlightened mine.
My heart was blessed with your gifts,
I will cherish those precious times,
As still shots and pictures in my minds eye.
I can never thank you enough for that time,
As brief as it was, for your gentle sweet soul.
I await to cross paths with you again someday,
My soul will know yours,
And we will embrace once more.

One Last Glimpse,


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