Tuesday, 17 December 2013


My grandfather, my Mom's Dad, was a great man; not great in the political or social impact sense. He was great inside, strong and caring, steady and kind. He was an amazing man, a good man, especially when you consider his life, going to work in the boot factory at age 12, leaving home for the army a few years later then serving not just all four years of The Great War, but a year after on picket duty along the border of Germany and France. In spite of the destruction and terror of that war, he emerged a man with a real soft spot, a many who knew how to love and care for his family.

I miss him a lot these days, much as I miss my own father. I miss that big snorty laugh of his, only now I realize how that laugh must have arisen from the mustard gas attacks of the war. I miss the way he, my Mom, my Aunt Margaret, my Uncle Peter and my Grandma would all gather in the living room and talk, laughing most of the time. I miss the house they lived in with its wide veranda and long balustraded stairs, the top plank just the perfect size for a small boy to slide down, leaping off the bottom like an Olympian, going for distance rather than style. I miss the dank smelling hidey hole underneath the front porch with its secret entry and lattice front.

My memory of Grandpa is short, too short. He was old when I was young, having married late and fathered children even later. Yet even in his 80's, a time when I was entering my 20's, he was a vibrant and lively man, active and busy all the time. I have no vision of him when he was not strong, when he was not working on something, building something, fixing something.

My most cherished memory of my Grandpa has to do with his generosity. As a boy my family was "blended". My father engaged in serial monogamy and was on his second wife, one who brought six daughters and a son into the relationship. They had another daughter and at one point all 12 children lived with them in a tiny house away out in the boonies.

It was my Dad's responsibility to deliver us boys, his sons from his first marriage, into Vancouver to see our Mom. On one of these visits, my Dad decided to push a few buttons and instead of delivering my Mom's sons, he added our young step-brother to the mix, delivering six boys instead of five, there to my Grandpa's front porch, leaving quickly before he could get caught in this charade. So up the steps we trooped, five and one.

My Grandpa had a bit of a ritual for us when we would come and visit in those years. When we arrived he would deliver unto each of us a quarter, a nice shiny 25 cent piece. In those days that was big money for a kid. We would troop off to the local corner store and spend our largesse quickly, fisting onto a Coke and as much penny candy as would remain after our initial burst of commercial enthusiasm. Candy and Coke in hand we would dash across Knight Street to the park, there to consume our booty.

On the day when my father delivered six boys, my Grandpa looked at Micheal, my step-brother. After a moment, the shortest of moments possible, he dug into his pocket and came up with quarter number six. Six boys trooped off to the store. Six boys played in the park. Six boys got Coke and candy.

My Dad never did that again. I suspect he was not pleased that my Grandpa had shown kindness to a child that was not of his own lineage. Clearly my Dad did not really know Grandpa. Grandpa was a generous man and I have taken that moment with me everywhere in my life. My Dad did not understand that kind of generosity; I did.


  1. Richard thanks for this story of dad. It brought tears to my eyes,tears that are still there as I write.
    love you

  2. I want to add that my life with dad was good. I loved him and he me. Our relationship was wonderful. I was a lucky child to have him for my dad.

  3. Sounds like great memories of a great man. I have no memories of grandfathers.One died when my mother was pregnant with me and another when I was 4, but oh, I have great memories of 1 granmother.She died when I was 25 but her sense of humor shaped my life.. Have a great day, Richard.