For the past few years I’ve complained about being unable to remember specific details of my life. When did we celebrate the new year by missing the countdown waiting for our check at that terrible Italian restaurant? And what restaurant was it? Where did we go for Christmas in 2008?
I think this is common. Or I have some kind of degenerative brain disease. Hopefully the former.
I started writing this post nearly two years ago. The blog was an attempt to kick my social media habit (I failed almost immediately). This was supposed to be the fourth post. With Twitter apparently moving towards something less usable, maybe it’s a good time to fire this old thing up again. No promises, this time. But I’ll dump my thoughts here whenever I’m inspired and I feel like writing something down so it doesn’t get lost in the ether of my old-man brain, or the never-ending web of tubes that is social media these days.
Around the time I started writing this the first time, my Grandpa on my stepdad’s side passed away. In that moment it seemed apt that I make an effort to start writing things down; to preserve fond memories. Better late than never, right?
My Grandpa George was, without a doubt, one of the warmest, most gentle souls I’ve ever met. He had to be, I think, because Grandma was always a bit cold. He and Grandma raised their family in Flin Flon, Manitoba, a small mining town on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border. They later relocated to Edmonton, and eventually Winnipeg, but they were always Prairie folk. He was a physics teacher for most of his life, I think, and then eventually became a principal (I should probably just ask my stepdad, but that would defeat the purpose of this “remembering” exercise, right?). Near the end of his career (or perhaps post-retirement), he traveled to Malawi to work in a school there (I would guess now that he did this for little-to-no money). The selflessness of this didn’t resonate with me at the time. In hindsight it seems pretty remarkable.
I remember one of Grandma and Grandpa’s visits to London. He decided to take my brother and me to play mini golf Masonville Mall, probably in an effort to get us out of the house (another selfless act that I only appreciate now as a parent). The mini golf itself was unremarkable, but I’ll never forget the drive home. At some point he must have driven over a garbage bag full of broken-down boxes and packing supplies (I would guess somewhere near the mall). People were honking, waving, and pointing at us the entire drive home, but Grandpa just honked and waved back; a level of politeness only attainable by a true Winnipeger. When we parked in the driveway, my stepdad looked under the car and pulled out what appeared to be an entire dumpster’s worth of garbage. It was incredible.
I remember the trip that my brother and I took to Winnipeg. We were still living in Toronto at the time, so I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 years old; my brother only 8 or 9. We flew by ourselves; it was my first trip on an airplane. We spent time both at their house in Winnipeg and at their cottage in nearby Falcon Lake. At one point in the trip, probably after exhausting all of the things to do with two rambunctious boys, my brother and I planned a WWE-style wrestling tournament. We even crafted tickets and made all of our relatives buy them. I’ll never forget how much fun we had; every one was fully involved, with Grandpa, of course, playing the part of the villain and taking on the character of “Granpda Man.”
The last memory I have is playing Trivial Pursuit with Grandpa, my brother, and my older sister. It must’ve been Christmas or some other holiday. The year escapes me, but it did take place in London, so that would mean it happened sometime between 1993 and 2004 (great memory, I know. This is why I’m doing this). My step-dad has an incredible memory for minute, useless facts.If you played Trivial Pursuit once with Grandpa, you would realize from whom my stepdad got his memory. Needless to say, Grandpa trounced us. We would read him seemingly impossible questions, and he would pull the answers out of thin air. He prefaced nearly every question with: “Ohhhh…. I don’t know.” And then he’d say the correct answer. The game was over before it started, but we played through and enjoyed ourselves anyway. With an insurmountable lead, Grandpa lands on the last square, where the remaining players get to conspire an ask a question from a category of their choosing. I think I was the one who read the question:
“This town’s name originates from Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the main character in a sci-fi book called ‘The Sunless City.’”
We all howled with laughter.
Miss you, Grandpa.