The holiday season is one filled with laughter, joy, family gatherings, the wrapping (and unwrapping!) of christmas gifts, traditions, chestnuts and so much more. This festive time, however, is also one of thoughts and memories. Memories of being a kid and christmas being so magical; waking up christmas morning to see beautiful gifts sitting under the glowing tree. Memories of childhood traditions – some which remain, and some which may fade away as we get older and live further apart, but which are never forgotten. Memories of those who were with us for past christmases, but who are unfortunately no longer around. When those memories stir, I always think of my grandpa.
My grandpa passed away just over 17 years ago, so although I knew him as a child, I unfortunately never had the chance to know him as an adult. I would have loved that. Having the chance to know both of my grandmothers as an adult is incredible. When you’re a kid, grandparents are warmth, love, promises of having a wonderful time, but they’re just grandparents. I think the same can be said about parents. When you’re a kid, that’s all they are; but when you become an adult, you also want to know them for the individual people they are. You want to hear their stories, learn from them, sit in awe as you hear what they lived through. They’re not just loving arms, always available candy or warm soup; they’re amazing people, who have been through more than we could ever imagine. I wish I’d had the chance to know my grandpa like that. And I know I’m luckier than others, even than my own brother. My grandpa passed away about 2 weeks after my brother was born, so they never knew each other. But I know my grandpa watches over all of us, and I believe the he keeps a special eye on my brother. I know he’ll always make sure we’re alright.
Even though I only knew my grandpa as a child, and it’s been a long time, there are some memories that will never fade away. His twinkling eyes, always laughing at some unspoken joke. The kindness that you could see in those eyes, even when we were getting in trouble.
He always had a smile ready, even when he was pretending to scold us. Sometimes he wasn’t pretending, but he never stayed angry with us for long, and would be slightly more indulgent with us after.
The way he was always singing or humming. While he worked, in the shower, while getting ready for lunch…it didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing, you could always hear him carrying a tune. I always loved that about him.
He would always have a fruit after a meal. Always. A pear, an orange…He used to love oranges. My grandma and my mom hate them. But my sister, brother and I love them; I always love finding something we share with him.
He had an amazing stamp collection. So many different styles, sizes and images. Some were so old, almost vintage, and I loved watching him while he worked. He had special glasses that were magnifying, and a special liquid to put the stamps in. I was never sure what that liquid did – I’m not sure if I asked him and I’ve now forgotten, or if somehow I strangely never thought of asking. He would hold them with tweezers while dipping them in that liquid, and then hang them so they would dry. He helped us start our own stamp collections. Sadly, they didn’t continue for very long after he was gone, but we still have them. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of those.
Something he loved to do was play solitaire on his bed. He would stretch out on his side, leaning against his arm and he’d set the cards up in front of him. That’s how I learned to play solitaire. I loved watching him play. I’d either settle on the bed next to him or on the floor beside the bed and I would watch. At first I just looked at what he did, at how he moved the cards, without saying anything. As time went on and I learned the game, I would sometimes point out a move he could do. He would playfully slap my hand away, give me a pseudo-stern stare, and then slowly make the move I’d suggested, looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. He didn’t have to say a word, his twinkling, laughing eyes said it all. I still play solitaire to this day. I know we can play it on the computer, on our phones, and on every possible technological platform, and I have done that, but nothing beats playing it with real cards. I always think of my grandpa when I play solitaire. Those quiet moments with him were very special to me, and they’ll forever be engraved in my heart.
I mentioned in an earlier post that when we were kids, living in Wisconsin, we used to drive up to Montreal every christmas, where my grandparents lived. My grandpa was still alive for all those christmases, so he was always there for the first memories I have of christmas. I don’t just think of him at christmas-time; he’ll also pop into my mind at unexpected moments sometimes. Those are the moments that catch me off-guard, that make me suddenly miss him, that sometimes almost bring me to tears with memories of him…
Maybe that’s when he’s looking down on me and letting me know that he’s still around.