Great Grandparents

One of my grandfathers died when I was little, but I was privileged to have had three grandparents, actively and lovingly participating in my life well into my adulthood. Two of them lived long enough to become great-grandparents. 

I lost my last living grandparent earlier this year. He was ninety-seven. But not an old ninety-seven. But rather a witty, knows-your-name-plus-the-names-of-every-one-of-his-childhood-friends, sharp mind, but ailing body, kind of ninety-seven. 

This weekend my family spread his ashes, and my grandma’s too (he kept her ashes so they could be together again one day). 

My parents were there. And aunts and uncles and cousins too. I regret that I wasn’t able to make the cross-country trip to help honour them. 

I am grateful though that I was able to see my grandpa one last time. My daughter and I visited him last spring. It was a special visit. I knew it would be the last. 

When I told people my grandpa had died, many were surprised, saying, “Wow. You still have grandparents?”

My grandma Fraser died suddenly and unexpectedly in her mid seventies. I don’t think my grandpa ever quite got over the loss. He lived independently for nearly two decades after she had gone. But he missed her terribly. 

Then one day he decided it was time to go. And so he did. 

And though we, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren miss him, I know he’s finally at peace—resting beside the woman he loved, near the ocean, amid flowers and green grass. 

I am relieved for him. But I feel a pit of loss I didn’t quite expect. As the eldest grandchild, memories of my grandparents are clear. I learned to walk in their home. I played in the trees and hedges in their yard and picked raspberries. I pulled in fresh laundry from the clothes line. I still remember how it smelled of flowers and ocean air and laundry soap. 

My grandma taught me to bake. Sorry grandma, I wasn’t a very good student as evident by every awful thing I’ve attempted to bake without you watching over my shoulder.

If I close my eyes I can see my grandma sitting at her kitchen table in the morning with her tea, reading the paper and listening to talk radio, her budgies chirping in the sun filled window, a dog rooted underfoot. 

Replace the budgies with a fat orange cat, and that’s me now. I’m so much like her. And my daughter is the spitting image of her. The Fraser genes run strong in this family. 

A few years ago when my husband and kids and I went out west for a family gathering (I grew up in B.C. and now live in Ontario) we visited my grandpa in his home. I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay living there much longer (though man did he ever have a good run. I’m in awe of how well he managed. He was an incredibly self-sufficient person).

In case I never got the chance to visit my grandparent’s home again, I wanted to preserve at least a few memories. I took photos of some of the little things around the house that reminded me of time spent with them in that cozy home over looking English Bay. 

The house is gone now. The new owners knocked it down and built something new. I can’t think about it without feeling slightly ill. I know life goes on and change happens, but I don’t have to like it. My aunt saved a beautiful beveled door knob from inside the house for each of the grandkids. I treasure it like a valuable gem. 

I miss all of my grandparents. They were kind and funny and the sun rose and set on all of their grandchildren. It’s a real gift to be loved like that.

I hope my kids can feel how unconditionally loved (and thoughtfully spoiled) they are by their grandparents.

I think I always felt it, but I don’t believe I ever fully appreciated the beauty of it until now. 

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