Yesterday would have been my grandfather’s 83rd birthday. He died in 2009 when I was 13. I remember the exact moment when I realized what happened. I was in the middle of class when the intercom came on in the classroom. The secretary told us that I was being signed out by my mom for the day.
I got all excited, thinking that my mom was signing me out early to take me shopping or something like she had done a couple of times before. As I came bounding down the main corridor steps, I saw my mom’s face and realized this was different. Her face showed signs of where tears used to be. Her plastered on smile faltered as she noticed my eyes examining her. I knew what was wrong, but I still had to ask what was wrong anyway. She just told me to grab my stuff. Then it hit me, and I crumpled in front of the secretary’s office crying, my mom quietly ushering me out to the truck where my dad and brother were.
Up until the funeral I had mostly kept to myself. I stayed in my room and read. I remember the book too, “Dragon Rider” by Cornelia Funke. On the day of the viewing I couldn’t cry. I felt completely dried up; emotionless. My kindergarten teacher and people I had grown up with came and hugged me, telling me how great a man my grandfather was. I appreciated it all, but it wouldn’t bring him back.
My grandfather was born on May 23, 1935. He was born with one leg shorter than the other, causing a slight limp that would lead to grinding pain in his hip joint later on in life. He grew up not knowing who his father was, but not caring. He was friends with everyone in the community, a hard worker, and played pranks on friends and family.
When he got older he worked for a paving company. The company was later hired to do a job in Newfoundland, where he met and fell in love with my grandmother. He brought her back to Zealand, where he built a house for them and they had three kids; my dad and his two sisters. My dad was the middle child.
Later my grandfather worked for the Department of Transportation, completing numerous jobs on the roads in the community. One day while working, my grandfather fell off of a truck, breaking his leg. He stayed tough and continued his daily life, and even cut off the cast himself.
I remember always seeing him walking with his cane, but at the time I never really knew how it came to be, or how much pain it caused him. Sometimes his hip would give out on him mid-walk, with the hip bones grinding against each other, with nothing to hold it in place.
Growing up, my family lived right across the road from my grandparents in a mini-home. I remember days when my grandmother was working, and I would run over to play checkers with my grandfather. I would sit there eating maple cookies, making him say funny things whenever I had to king his checker piece. He would always be in his favourite spot, laying on the couch facing the door.
My brother and I heard of the daring and hilarious pranks my grandfather would pull on the two men who rented out beds in the attic of their house. One time my grandfather put powder in the fan of one of the men’s truck. When he started to leave the house, he turned on the fan and the entire truck bed filled with powder, momentarily blinding him. He was barely out of the driveway when it happened.
Another time, the other man was coming home late from drinking. My grandfather knew he’d be plastered, so he set a rolling pin under his pillow, and clothespins under his sheets. When the man came home, my grandfather laid in bed listening as he climbed up the ladder to his bed in the attic. The last thing my grandfather heard was when the man threw himself on to the bed with a loud ‘thunk’ as his head connected with the rolling pin, and he was out. The next morning he woke up with a massive headache and welts all over his back from the clothespins sticking to his body.
I don’t remember my grandfather from his last moments on Earth, but I remember him as a man who loved to tease everyone, make people smile, and say “King me, baby” to make me laugh during checkers.