Once Great Grannie died, when I was six, Grandad was the only relative within visiting distance from us. His house was only about a two hour drive from us, through the gorgeous Shuswap, and nestled in the woods. We always picked wild strawberries between the car and his house even though we could see the one from the other, and with our lunch we usually had fresh carrots he had grown in his garden, the sweetest, tastiest carrots we’d ever eat.
His house was always immaculate and several degrees cold. I loved his living room couches as they were apolstered with some sort of floral, short hair velvet. I thought they were the most luxurious things in the world, despite the fact that nothing else in his house spoke of luxury, only … enough. In one of the downstairs rooms, in the closet, he kept a couple of things from WWII. I was always so fascinated with his helmet. I rarely went into that room, and not without either Mum or Grandad, as the war was something about which he rarely spoke. I revered that place as something still very tender to him.
He was very much his own made man. All that he had was from his own labour and he seemed rather contented with his life. I don’t remember ever seeing him emotional, neither cross, nor sad, nor exuberant. He was a placid pool upon which we never made waves.
I think the reason I dragged my feet in reading his autobiography was that I feared that finishing it would be akin to letting him die. I’m still stuck in his early twenties, far enough along to get past the heartbreak of his childhood, but still years before he married Grannie or moved up north. I have 76 years of his life yet to learn (hey, he beat Yeltsin by nearly 20 years.) I guess now it’s time to finish his book, free of my hangup, now that it’s all I’ve got to teach my boys about their Great Grandfather. After all, at his request there will be no service.