I am so thankful that you were my Grandpa. Not everyone gets that. But I did. I had the best Grandpa ever. When you were in the hospital, I decided to make a list of memories, or things that I love about you. Singing out loud with Erica to Rainbow Bright while crusing in the candy car. Man, we loved that tape. Driving the golf cart around the streets and getting hollered at by the cranky old man. I credit you with my good driving skills today.
You taught me how to play cribbage up in Canada too. I also remember playing solitaire next to you, to pass the time while it rained. As I flipped through the pages of photos from every year of my life, there you were, smiling back at me. You were always smiling.
Always laughing. Always happy. We are grieving the loss of you — the most amazing man. A devoted husband, a deeply loved and respected father, and an adored grandfather.
The world seems a little less vibrant without you in it, Grandpa. I was eight years old when I had finally asked about what the shed was for while we were fishing. Grandpa said that he kept tools in there and that they were mostly for yard and house work. I asked if I could go in there because I had never seen the inside before. He said no because there were many sharp objects that could hurt me. I guessed that he was probably right. I had no reason not to trust my grandpa, so I took his word for it.
I curiously watched my grandpa enter in and out of the shed for years. The funny thing was that I never saw him come out of the shed with his so-called tools for yard and house work. The tools I saw him use for those kind of things were always taken out of the garage.
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I continued to grow more suspicious every day. There was a point when my mom was home and I had asked her the same thing I asked Grandpa. She said she didn't know what the shed was exactly for. I told her what Grandpa told me and she said he was most likely telling the truth. I continued to share my suspicions, but Mom just denied them all. She said I was silly and my imagination was tricking me. She wanted me to stop harassing her and Grandpa about the old shed, but I knew there was something wrong. I knew I wasn't crazy. When I was eleven years old, I went outside to practice baseball. I had a big tournament coming up.
Grandpa was inside taking a nap. I proceeded to hit grounders by myself just for a little warmup. When I smacked my first dinger of the day, it went the one place I hoped it wouldn't go. The ball smashed through the window of the shed and fell to the bottom of the tarp that had been covering the window.
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I checked my surroundings. Grandpa was nowhere in sight. I walked closer to the door. It seemed the closer I walked, the slower I got. I began getting scared. I stopped completely in my tracks. I just couldn't defy my grandpa. I didn't want to disappoint him. Another part of me was also afraid of what could be in the shed.
Why would Grandpa be so concerned about me going inside? But I also knew that my grandfather was a gentleman and nothing could be too terrible. I allowed my courage to gather up once again. I began walking, but I was so slow, it was like I was going nowhere. I finally reached the shed.
I put my hand on the doorknob and froze. I was reluctant about this whole situation. As I slowly began turning the knob, something grabbed me from behind. I took a deep breath in, getting ready to scream, but a hand had come across my face to stop me. It was my grandpa. He proceeded to drag me back to the house. This was the first time I had ever seen true anger inside of my grandpa. I was crying. I wanted to scream so badly, but his large hand was wrapped around the bottom half of my face.
Tears were streaming down, and I began to panic. This was one of the only moments in my life where I saw my true father inside of someone else. A moment where I could flashback to all the abuse. It seemed like I could feel every cigarette butt burn holes into my body once again. I tried to thrash and jerk around, I tried to kick him, and I tried to punch him, but he was just too strong. I finally gave into his wicked grip and waited for my fate. He opened the door, carried me inside, sat me on the counter, and finally took his hand off my mouth.
I begged and begged. I'm sorry. It will never happen again I screamed. He stared me in the eyes as I cried and whispered:. I have given you very few rules while you live under this roof. And one of them has been the same for years. What was that rule Mason? I was terrified. He slapped me once again. I finally managed to utter a few words of fear. I acknowledged that I had done wrong. I tried everything to apologize, but he was not pleased. He continued to shake me and scream.
He stopped and stared down at me. He was out of breath. It was like he was taking a break and getting ready to throw another tantrum. Before he could do anything else, I quietly cried out one word. Grandpa immediately stopped. It was like I snapped him out of it. He gently wiped my tears from my cheeks.
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I didn't know what to think. I'm just terrified of losing you like I lost your grandma. I love you. Please forgive me, buddy. He kissed my head and put me on the ground. I ran to my room and laid in bed trying to recap what just happened. I kept crying and I just couldn't stop. Just then, my door opened.
I jumped. It was my grandpa again. He had one more thing to say. I nodded as he closed the door and left.
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He knew what he was doing was wrong. He didn't want anyone to know. I was thirteen years old. My mother had suffered a heart attack. Doctors believed it to be from all the stress she had of constantly working. My mother was in critical condition and Grandpa decided to pull the plug because it had been many months and she seemed to be getting worse every day. Now, it was just me with Grandpa. I was honestly terrified now. I didn't have my mother to stop my grandpa from doing the unthinkable to me. My grandpa started trusting me to be home alone while he would run errands.
Through the entire length of their marriage until her death in , he was a gentleman deeply in love with his wife. Subsequently, and among many other things, he was a widower who would still tear up upon the mere mention of her name decades later. My grandfather proposed to my grandmother because he caught a glimpse of her on a fateful day in He enlisted in the Air Force and was sent to England in the early s. That too is family lore, because the man wore thick glasses since he was a child.
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But he wanted to fight for his country during the Second World War, and wanted to join the Air Force to do so. They rejected his application. Did he give up? He never gave up. He memorized the eye chart and waited until a new doctor was giving he exam. The sneaky strategy paid off and he finally passed. He was sent to Gander in Newfoundland for training, and eventually onwards to England.
The ruse was up eventually, of course, and he was not able to fly planes. Instead, he served happily from the ground. Eventually, he transferred to a base on the coast of England. There, he and his Air Force buddies would spent one evening a week at a hotel near the sea, playing poker with injured son of the owner. One week in , a young woman caught his attention on his way to that weekly game. She was walking down the stairs at the hotel with an older woman, her mother, and she stood out immediately, he said.
In all of the times I have heard this story, I never thought to ask how he broke the ice. I imagine it started with a cheerful hello.
Perhaps, as he saw her heading to a room in the hotel, he asked her if she was retiring so soon. Seeking an escape from the London smog for a weekend, my great-grandmother brought my grandma to the coast with her. Slim, petite, and always introspective, I can only imagine what was going through her head that she agreed at age 19 to an impromptu date with a stranger. Further, unbeknownst to my grandfather, she was engaged to a gentleman in London.
For a shy engaged! She did not retire for the night, and instead did what she always did because she was always cold: she went and got a sweater. She turned and explained her need for a sweater to my grandfather — this part we all do know — and that she wanted to get her mother settled for the night. Their first date was a drawn-out walk along the cliffs at the edge of the sea, one that culminated in a proposal. Regardless, and as they both told it, those previous plans were impossible now.
Something shifted in the universe, something firm and unyielding. They felt that they were meant to be together despite the chaos that would it would likely cause in their individual families. Before they knew it, it was almost curfew. My grandfather had to be back in his barracks or risk being declared AWOL. A gentleman, he tried to walk my grandmother to the hotel regardless, but she insisted that he not risk his enlistment.
They made plans to meet at the hotel the next day, and she told him to rush back before it was too late. During the war, a country-wide blackout went into effect Sept 1, Lights could easily geolocate a spot for Germans to bomb, so at dusk there were no lights. With darkness upon them, my grandparents split up to make their way back to their respective sleeping spots. In the inky blackness, my grandmother felt her way along the cliffs toward the hotel. En route, she tripped over a retaining wall and promptly collapsed a lung. Again, the questions I never thought to ask as a child. Clearly, the mother-daughter trip to the coast was over.
My grandmother and great-grandmother left at dawn for to London to see a doctor. The next day, my grandfather returned to the hotel as planned, only to find out that my grandmother was gone. He begged the hotel for their London address, and on his first day of leave he rushed to London to see her. Today, treatment for a severe collapsed lung usually involves inserting a needle or chest tube between the ribs to remove the excess air.
In , however, it was simply bedrest for as long as it took to hopefully heal. So for several months, my grandfather made the trip from the coast to London and back again whenever he had a day of leave. One day, my great-grandfather took my grandpa aside to ask him what his intentions were, since he was doggedly returning every chance he got. In the case of my grandpa, the ship he was supposed to take from Gander to England was hit by a German U-boat torpedo on its trajectory. Thankfully, a pilot friend was also being shipped out to England, and offered my grandfather a seat on his plane. Everyone on the ship bound for England died.
So too did my grandmother cheat death. After recovering from the collapsed lung, she took a her job at the office of a munitions factory in London. She had perfect attendance at work, until she came down with the flu over a weekend. Not wanting to miss work, she only allowed herself to stay home on Monday morning, returning to the factory in the afternoon. She arrived to find it completely levelled; it suffered a direct hit by a German bomb that morning, and everyone inside was killed.
In a similar vein, she had a near-death experience on her passage to Canada. When the war ended, my grandfather returned home with his fellow servicemen. As many Canadians stationed in England met and married English women, the government provided them special ships that transported them back to their now-husbands.
The Canadian government estimates that by , 48, marriages between Canadian servicemen and civilian women overseas had been registered. By the end of March , the Canadian government had transported approximately 44, wives and 21, children to Canada, sent across the ocean on huge troop ships or modified cruise ships.
My grandmother sailed on a troop ship and came up on deck feeling nauseous from sea-sickness during a storm. Being so slight, when a wave crashed into the ship she went with it. A sailor holding a guide rope grabbed onto her just before she was swept off deck. She arrived safely to Halifax eventually.