Today was Grampa’s 80th birthday party… and it was a really lovely event. There must have been close to seventy people there throughout the few hours we had the room. Only 51 signed the guestbook, but we had 35 seats set up, and we were filled to capacity twice as folks cycled out and new guests cycled in. At one point many of us were standing, mingling, visiting, and the seats were filled even then. 🙂
One woman in particular I recognized, but didn’t know why. After she finished the conversation she was in, I walked up and explained that I was sure I knew here, but couldn’t place her. Turned out she used to work with Grampa at the Compensation Board. He used to take me with him to work all the time when I was little. So seeing Marilyn was very neat. Turns out she still works there, and she remembered the little girl I once was.
I got lots of photographs… people talking, hugging, reminiscing. None to share just now though, as I’ve got a tired wee girlie sleeping soundly on my side. And I’d rather cuddle with my girl vs. sitting upstairs alone transferring photos to the computer. I’m sure you understand. 😉
So another very full day. Another night where I am very much looking forward to sleep.
I finally figured it out, what has been bothering me the last few days. I’ve been really stressed and feeling overwhelmed – more so than I should be. Sure I’m in the middle of planning the Green Party’s AGM, and I’m working on a number of other projects too… but nothing that should have been causing the feeling of being crushed under too much that I was experiencing.
Last night I was running everything through my head, doing a bit of a check list. What I had accomplished, what I still needed to accomplish, what I could work on the next day… That’s when it hit me. The overwhelmed feeling is about my Grampa’s birthday.
Okay, okay… I know. That’s a little odd. But let me give you a little back story.
My mom was still a girl, just a teen, when she had me. And I’ve always been so grateful for everything she sacrificed for me. She was a single, teen, mom… just being ONE of those things can be tough, but she was all three. Because of this, my Grampa was the man in my life when I was really young. Almost all of my earliest memories center around time with him, or at his house. Even after Mom met Dad, and the three of us became a family, Grampa remained an ever steady, ever present part of my life.
Grampa took me camping, a lot. He instilled in me a love and respect for nature. An awe at the miracles that surround us, the miracles in the every day. We fished. We camped. We rode bikes (well, I didn’t ride until I was twelve, so mostly I got rides on his bike). We took trips. We went to family reunions. Grampa was always there.
In high school he remained as steadfast as ever. Once a week he’d pick me up early and we’d go for “coffee” before classes. I always had a hot chocolate. Those mornings were sooo important to me. And I knew that if I was ever in a spot I could count on him. He’d pick me up and give me rides to Youth, and drove to come get me TWICE on Sundays for morning and evening service. He was my best friend. It may not have been a ‘cool’ thing to admit, but if anyone ever asked me, I was always the first to tell them exactly that. My Grampa was my bestie, my BFF. I was popular, I had lots of friends… but none of them came close to the love and friendship that he and I shared.
When Grampa married Joan I was in University… and I’ll admit it… I disliked her out of pure jealousy. All the time that he used to spend with me, well, he now spent with her. No, I wasn’t cut out of the picture entirely. We still spent several days a week together… but I was jealous. I was a kid, and my best friend had found a new best friend. Now I look back and am more than a little embarrassed about feeling that way. I love Joan, she’s a member of the family, and I’m so glad that Grampa has her… and that we have her too.
That was the beginning of our separation. Slowly, as I grew up, the gap widened. We spent less time together. Our interests didn’t lead us in the same directions. And these days (fifteen years later) I’m lucky to see Grampa once a month… and often that is just in passing.
So, the idea that my Grampa, one of the most important
men people in my life, will be turning EIGHTY?!?!? Well… it’s hit me rather hard. 77, 78, 79… no problem. But 80 is different. 80 is hard.
I’m in the middle of helping to plan his birthday party… trying to track down people that he and I used to see all the time. The Morin’s, the Lutz’s, people who’s names I’ve forgotten but who’s faces I remember… people who were adults, who I smiled at and waved to from the other end of the Church that my Grampa and I helped to build (both literally and figuratively). I’m hoping to find them all, so they too can help celebrate the man who has meant so very much to me, who has ALWAYS been there… who I know I can still count on no matter what.
No. Not all our memories are blissful and happy. Like the time we drove to Wisconsin for a family reunion… Grampa, two of my younger cousins, and myself. Then came home with lice from one of the motels we stayed in on the trip home. It was SOOOO gross. They were HUGE. And I was a TEENAGER! It was a nightmare. But even that I can look back on and laugh – because we were in it together.
The fact that this man, my Grampa, is now going to be 80 scares me.
I remember, during one of our “coffee” dates. He suddenly fell silent and took my hands into his. “Tobi”, he said. “I want you to promise me something.” The mood instantly changed, and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s something I’ve carried with me my entire life. “When I die, I don’t want a funeral.” I remember being totally taken aback. I was 16, and my Grampa was talking to me about dying. “Promise me you’ll plan everything. Throw me a party. I don’t want anyone to mourn. When I die, I’m going home. It’s something to be celebrated.” I made that promise, and at the time it was really just my way of trying to get him to stop talking about it.
Grampa has never been old, and I can’t imagine him ever being old. He’s always been active. Even when his pain got the better of him, he’d just find a new way to keep being active. He’d give up one thing, but would find something else. He’s been a member of a gym now for about six months. Goes a few times a week, and is better shape than he’s been in for some time. He’s not old, so I don’t know what that number scares me. That number may be old, but my Grampa is not.
So… here’s to my Grampa! One of the best men I know. To another entire lifetime. To him never getting tired, never slowing down. To him, and all he’s given me. To the love we shared, and continue to share (despite growing somewhat apart). He’s amazing… and I look forward to celebrating him with our family and all his friends this February.
Will he get a chance to read this? Not as long as it’s solely available online. He sold his computer after a few months, claiming he didn’t receive enough email for it to be worth the trouble. LOL
I love you Grampa.
Friend of Bill’s?
Hope to see you in February at his birthday party.
See the link above for all the details.