Friday, January 23, 2009

In the Midst of the Whirlwind

This week has been a whirlwind. What with my dance class performance and the first day of the homeschooling ski program, which I am organizing again, violin and piano lessons and seeing clients it has been action packed from morn until eve on several days this week. Today when I rushed home to pick up Rhiannon and all the stuff for the performance and Drew to help, Dean told me that my dad had called and sometime in the night my Grandfather had slipped away. I didn't have time, then, to stop and feel anything about that. I had families who were counting on seeing their little ballerinas and ballerinas who were counting on performing for their families.

I am glad for my grandpa that he went this way. He had Alzheimer's Disease which had progressed to the point that there was starting to be a discussion about him being in his home. And he loved using his mind, contemplating philosophy and the grand scheme of things. It was hard to see his mental facilities dwindling away. I am glad for him that he left with his wife who loved him at his side, that he was never forced to leave his home, that he was always cared for by those who knew him well and loved him deeply.

My grandpa served in WWII and took advantage of the veteran benefits and got his degree and became a French teacher. His first position was in New Denver. What is remarkable to me is that he became completely bilingual in French as an adult. So that in his old age, he read Zola and other French philosophers in French. He told me that sometimes he dreamed in French. He loved ideas and he loved discussing them.

I always knew that he loved me. I have many letters from him - letters discussing deep ideas, letters sharing his childhood, letters sharing his philosophy and beliefs, letters answering my questions, letters sharing his poetry and other writings, letters discussing my poetry and encouraging me to write more. I have recordings of his own voice telling stories of his childhood in Saskatchewan and of meeting my grandmother and of my mother and her sister and brother as children. I have a recording that he made of me at Christmas when I was 4 on his reel-to-reel. I have copies of autobiographical stories that he never published and I have this book that he did.

My childhood was punctuated with regular visits from my grandparents. I can remember when he walked me and my brother to school when we were 8 and 7 and we lived in Prince George. He taught us mountain climbing techniques on the paved bank going up from the side walk. My childhood is documented mostly with pictures he took of me. This one is one of his typical 'natural' looking staged pictures with the timer set, taken just after my brother Layne was born. I'm the brown curly hair on the far left. He especially like to make it look like he was the one caught unawares by the photo he staged. He liked little ironies like that. When I went from Terrace to Victoria for a ballet summer school when I was 14, he came and took me out for seafood on the Queen Mary 2. It was the first time I ate oysters. I remember that night, he drove me around the campus of UVic where he was working during the summer marking exam papers and suggested that one day I might go there. Of course, he turned out to be prophetic.

When I lived in Sidney, and was attending UVic, he and his wife would drive down at least once a year to see me, bring gifts for Erin and then Kaetlyn and take me for dinner or out to a concert.

I considered it a great blessing to be his granddaughter - to have him as an example. What a gift to have such an articulate grandpa who was not afraid to share himself with me. His words I will treasure always. I shared with him a love of the outdoors. Even Rhiannon has walked around Piper's Lagoon with him and got to have the experience of having him marvel at her. And he did marvel at us all - his progeny. I always got that feeling when I was near him - that he marvelled to see bits of him in all of us. I knew he loved me and accepted me. And I am so glad I told him often how I felt about him. What a gift to be loved so well by him.

It is always that finality of death that surprises me. That there won't be a time I will see him again in this life. That there won't be another letter, another phone call. The last time I talked to him was when I was in PG at my aunt's house. I am so grateful that my memories of him are so rich and that he was able to share so much of himself with me.

Goodbye Grandpa.... and thank you.

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