Grandparents are perhaps among the most treasured people in the lives of children. Kids can't wait for the moment to see them and the time involved in reuniting with them is never ending. The fact of just being close to them or hugging them is natural behaviour and gaining their attention at every passing second is the number one objective. Time just breezes by when you are in their company and if you don't stop and look around, that time will just pass you by. This was no exception with my paternal grandparents (better known in my little world as Granny and Grandad) who we barely had the pleasure to enjoy during the course of the year. My widowed maternal grandmother, Mémé, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, was the only family member who periodically visited while we were posted overseas. I remember when December came around, I began counting down the days to heading to Canada to see the family, especially Granny and Grandad.
|Grandad and Granny on a trip to England in the 80s|
After our Polynesian tour, we resumed our regular pilgrimage to the frozen north without knowing what awaited us upon our return to Santiago. The end of the southern hemisphere summer naturally brought forth the mixed feelings of a cooler autumn. The end of February meant going back to school, replacing the excess leisure I cherished with hitting the books. My comfort was in reuniting with my buddies and hoping the new scholastic year would include interesting courses. I also was looking forward to my much anticipated birthday on March 2nd, only two weeks away from the inaugural schoolyard bell. I was particularly enthused that it would be on a weekend this year. However, the day before my special day, my perfect world was rocked once more. My Granny had been hospitalized due to a heart attack and was not able to hang on to the world we shared, and passed on the day of my birthday. I still recall this moment with great heartache. I lost a great person who blessed me with great memories, such as her love for Huck Finn and the incredibly amazing deserts served in gargantuan portions. This shock was hard to handle, especially as I could not be close to Grandad to give him a hug and support, especially now that he was alone without any relatives nearby. Furthermore, because we had already taken our vacation leave, there was no way financially or otherwise for us to attend Granny's funeral. That distance between North and South had become even greater. We could not pay tribute to Granny and say our farewell.
I am not sure how the next events unfolded, but some of the influencing must have been conducted by my Dad. The loss of his mother contributed to his cross-continental reaching out to his father, convincing him take some time for himself to heal the wounds and fill the void Granny had left in our lives. The four of us in Santiago did our share of reaching out, so I could relate to that father-son connection. The good news among the bad was that Grandad was coming to the deep south. Brian and I were delightfully surprised to have our grandfather all to ourselves, regardless of the fact we were back in school. After Maman's cancer, our Venezuelan curfews and other challenges, we were seasoned in finding comfort in family and coming together. This would be a great opportunity for all of us to join forces and help Grandad keep his mind on the positive and the magic of family. Once the news was out he was coming, another arduous waiting game began, hoping the day to go pick him up at the airport would come soon. I wanted all my friends to know he was coming and hoped they would meet him. I swear I must have even thought of organizing my GI Joes for a military parade welcoming him. My parents on the other hand were probably considering some fun activities, must-see events and locations.
The day finally closed in on us. Grandad arrived. The four of us were all present and accounted for at the airport to greet him and anxious to make every second of his visit count. The royal treatment we had previously extended to Mémé now applied to pampering Grandad. It was awesome coming home from school to see him. We also took him to our personal heaven in Reñaca where he seemed to appreciate the Pacific Coast. Once more we assumed the role of the most thorough tour guides in the region. We dined in our preferred restaurants, ventured around port area, and the Chilean navy even had a wonderful collection of war ships out on the waterfront, perhaps readying for a war game. My most precious memory of his trip was in the beach house during one of our quiet evenings together. Brian and I decided to turn the silence into entertainment. Lucky Grandad! In the early 90s, the song Black or White by Michael Jackson had taken the world by storm along with his unmatched abilities to moonwalk. Brian set us up for the opening ceremonies, popping in our tape of Michael Jackson's Dangerous as we scrambled to our places. Let the show begin! I performed some world class lip-synch routine wearing my huge dark sunglasses, my Terry Fox Run t-shirt bearing a massive red maple leaf and my gray jogging pants. Brian suited up in his fancy black nylon track outfit and busted every move in the dance move bible. Footloose had nothing on him. There is a video of this incident somewhere in the family records which I hope to share at some point on this blog before this priceless footage is lost in time. The Bickford performers were so unbelievably talented that my Grandad showed the tape to the family in Canada. What an honour! I know now what the Jackson 5 must of felt when they hit the big time.
|Grandad leading the expedition through Valparaiso, Chile|
Once Grandad returned home to Canada, reality, as it tends to do, set in. From here on out, every time I would see Grandad again, there would be no Granny. In fact, even until the last times I went to his house in Amherstview - for those who are not familiar with this place, it is a suburb of Kingston, Ontario - I never got used to not seeing Granny around. There was no dedicated tombstone or mausoleum where her remains rested. Grandad spread her ashes in the backyard of his house. Perhaps this was an idea to always be with her, but when his house was sold in the 2000s, I felt as if Granny had also been sold. My Pépé (my maternal grandfather) passed away when I was slightly over 3 years-old and now, my Granny at 11. It is impossible for me to say that I understood that this was a life process and our clock runs out when it has to. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I considered that I had been robbed of special people. On the subject of my Pépé, it saddens me that I do not remember much about him. Perhaps it was the age, the fact we did not live close by, or my age and having to keep up to constant wide scale changes. I have developed a mentality which adapts to tragic personal losses convinced that it is absolutely important to remember the good things about these people. As long as their memory prevails, they continue to accompany us through life. I like to think that when I reach a goal I set for myself, it was thanks to their positive thoughts, as they are my guardian angels watching out for me.