Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Grandfather

I was born in 1916 in Dawson City, Yukon. You've probably heard of it... the gold rush and all. I guess that will make me 92 this year, but that's not suprising, given our family's longevity. Nana, my mother, died at 107.

I grew up in the Yukon, before our family moved to Vancouver in the early 30s, where I went to University and studied to be an engineer. I met and married Alice. In 1943, I enlisted in the Air Force as an Aircraftsman Second Class, or an acey-deucy, as they used to call us. Eventually, I flew Coast Patrol in Cansos and the Catalinas on the west coast, and then I was sent East for further training in Arnprior before finishing the war flying coast patrols in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. I was tall and handsome; there are pictures that prove it.

In 1944, our daughter was born, and we named her after her mother and her aunt. I called her Baby. There were boys that came too, eventually three of them. And we lost babies along the way as well. It wasn't uncommon.

After the war, I worked in Vancouver for a few years before I got a job in 1948 as a mining engineer with United Keno Hill. We packed up and headed north, to Northern British Columbia and the Yukon. There was a lot of moving in those years, as mines opened and closed. At Spillamacheen, near Golden, you can still see the house that we lived in if you drive all the way up the mine road. It's the one in the middle, with the hexagonal window. I took the car over the side of that mine road once, and hit the only tree between the road and the Fraser river. Fortunately, the kids weren't in the car, just Alice and me, so we climbed out carefully and walked up to the house. Alice held it together until much later that evening; when she broke down, I picked her up and carried her to bed. There are other stories too; remind me to tell you about the train load of frozen turkeys sometime.

By the time Baby was in high school, we were in Ontario, in the Levack/Sudbury area. We've been in Ontario ever since. The kids are all married now, and there are grandchildren. Seven of them; six boys and a girl. Our three boys and their families stayed in Ontario; Baby and her family moved west many many years ago.
There's a great-grandson too.

Alice and I eventually had to sell the big house in Sudbury. The neighbour bought it, so it was nice to know that the old place would be taken care of. We built a house in Arnprior to be close to our eldest son and his wife. You'll remember that I trained in Arnprior during the war, so I guess I'd come full circle. We liked Arnprior, Alice and me. There were friends, and nice restaurants where we knew the waitresses by name, and we even took a yoga class. I could still drive our big old car around the town, and even in to Ottawa every so often.

There were signs of age. I didn't hear very well anymore, even with the hearing aids, and my memory wasn't great. Emotions seemed to appear more quickly and more uncontrollably than they ever had before. Alice and I celebrated our 50th anniversary, and then our 60th, and the family came to celebrate with us.

And still there were signs of age, more than there had been before.

And then Alice had a stroke. And then she died.

And the signs of age that had been creeping along in me so gradually, all of a sudden accelerated. Our eldest son and his family moved me out of the little house in Arnprior that Alice and I built and into a place where I'd have more help, but the dementia came on so strong and so fast that it was too much for that place to handle, so I was moved again, to the place where I live now. I think I get good care here; there are certainly lots of nurses.

I was born in 1916, so I guess that means I'll turn 92 this year. Ninety-two years of a very good life. I think that I've lived it well.

There's a picture of my grandfather taken when he was a much younger man, standing outside in his undershirt and slacks, with his hands on his hips, and his hat on his head. He was a tall and handsome young man. And another, of my grandparents walking in Toronto, taken by a street photographer. They were a very attractive couple, fashionably dressed. Those two pictures are the way that I always think of him.


From The Podium said...

This is lovely.

Crimson Rambler said...

lovely stuff, honey!

ccw said...

A beautiful post!

I'm Still Me said...

Wow! Beautiful to read.

more cows than people said...

gorgeous. (o)

Jan said...

This is interesting and something to treasure. Thank you.

Jim said...

This is why you are My Favourite Niece. And you would still be my favourite, even if I had two. Or three.

SpookyRach said...

very cool.