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Remembering My Grandparents

April 13, 2013

I’m trying to recall my early memories of my grandparents.  I don’t have many.  Perhaps this is because, when I was a little boy, they were just there.  They didn’t seem remarkable to me.

My grandfather Papa was part owner of a creamery.  He was mayor of Brandon and an MLA for the Liberal-Progressive party.  To me, he was just my grandfather.  I recall that he subscribed to a newspaper that had an image of meshed gears on the front pages.  I have no idea what it was, but I was intrigued by the mechanics of that image.  My mother told me one time that I should ask him about his experience as an MLA.  He was pleased when I did that.  He told me about the paper fight that the members had at the end of term.  He also brought us some surprises after he retired.  One time he built a round garbage can lid from wood.  I had no idea that he had carpentry skills.  Another time, he brought home a bag of peaches.  He told my mother that they looked so good in the store that he just had to buy them.  They turned out to be nectarines.  Mother was very proud of him.

I don’t have many memories of his wife, my grandmother Nana.  She died of ALS when I was a child.  My mother recently gave me an old photograph of her, saying that I was the only boy old enough to remember her.  In the the photograph I see a young woman in old-fashioned clothing.  Her face does not look familiar to me.  I do recall seeing her in the kitchen sitting in her wheelchair.  I don’t recall the funeral, but I do remember seeing the empty wheelchair sitting in the front room afterwards.

My grandfather Grandpa was a coal dealer.  He kept track of his customers and always knew when they needed another load of coal.  My father worked for him before he ventured out on his own.  I recall hearing my grandfather negotiating with the mining companies in Alberta on the long-distance telephone.  He was a hockey fan too.  This led him to a venture into the hockey boot business.  A neighbor of his, Mr Pestyk, had a shoe repair shop behind his house.  Mr Pestyk had worked for Tackaberry, building hockey boots at his shop.  Their hockey boot business was bought out by CCM.  Mr Pestyk knew how to build hockey boots, but didn’t want to do the marketing.  My grandfather took on that role.  He advertized in the Hockey News.  He sold custom-built all-leather boots.  I recall trying on a pair of the boots before they were sent to a customer.  I recall that my grandfather took me on a tour of the shop.  There was leather and machinery everywhere.

Grandpa had only a fringe of hair on his head.  He took delight in getting a shave and a haircut for the price of a shave.  He smoked a cigar, and cigarettes too.  His office upstairs smelled of tobacco and pencil shavings.  I played with blotters and rubber stamps there.  He had an old floor-model radio.  I found out later that it was a neutrodyne model with 4-pin vacuum tubes.  He took pride in his garden, with apple trees, raspberry canes, strawberries, and vegetables.  He drove an old ’51 Chevy.  I went with him one time when he filled the trunk with oak trimmings to burn in his furnace.  They came from a company that built truck boxes.

I remember his wife, my grandmother Grandma, as a kind lady with long grey hair.  She looked after me sometimes when I was a little boy.  She would often feed me a bowl of canned peaches.  I recall that she insisted that I eat a piece of bread with the peaches.  She made her own soap, heating the tub on a wood stove in the basement.  Sometimes she got up at night to smoke a Catarrh Cubeb in the bathroom.

I stayed with them one year to attend college.  My bed was in one of the alcoves upstairs.  They still had a coal and wood furnace.  It was hot in the evenings when my grandfather stoked the furnace.  It was really cold on winter mornings, long after the fire had gone out.  I dreaded leaving my warm bed to put my toes on that cold floor.  I had the job of starting the fire in the mornings.  I eventually learned how to do that without filling the basement with smoke.

I’m filled with sad feelings as I remember my grandparents.  They are mixed feelings really, because I remember them with pleasure, but I know that those days are gone forever.

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