Grandpa

“There once was a horse with no tale…”

Pause.

“Yes, Grandpa” we would say. “What’s the rest of the story?”

Silence. For years Grandpa would say this as we gathered around their large hand made dining table. Did Grandpa have special affection for this tailless horse that he had to keep mentioning it? Did he forget the rest of the story?

Finally I got it. Grandpa didn’t tell the tale because the horse had none.

Now I would like to tell the tale of Grandpa. Last night at 10:30 pm he entered eternity. His final adventure. I can’t wait to hear him tell me all about it one day.

Grandpa’s 90th birthday three years ago was the chance for Forest to meet all the relatives. I remember feeling so happy at the party that we were all gathering together to honour Grandpa while he was still with us and healthy enough to enjoy himself. How precious those moments are. How small any barrier seems that keeps us apart. Let us honour one another and treasure the time that we have.

When I was a little girl Grandpa and Grandma’s farm in Terrace was close to paradise for me. Worth the 22 hour greyhound bus ride. Worth the black fly bites.

There were cute baby bunnies to cuddle, little baby ducks to chase around, fresh potatoes from the garden, a cozy couch and the whole Narnia series to read on rainy days. And there were Grandpa and Grandma creating an atmosphere of serenity and safety for little grandchildren. The serenity wasn’t even broken when Grandpa would take his big hands and pretend to crack an egg over my head or wrestle with his big dogs who loved Grandpa and only Grandpa. Sometimes I was afraid of those big dogs but I knew that I was safe when Grandpa was nearby.

I loved watching Grandpa cut his long grass with his scythe. As his strong arms made silent sweeping strokes it’s like they were saying “lawn mower? Who needs that?”

He always got us to help chase the chickens and ducks into their house at night and collect the little brown chicken eggs and big white duck eggs. Little treasures in the mud and hay.

On rainy days and during the evening Granda would pull out his little mandolin. “This was a guitar you know” he would tell us with a twinkle in his eye “but your Grandma shrunk it in the washing machine”. I actually was young enough to believe him. I didn’t bother trying to figure out how Grandma fit a guitar in the washing machine.

Grandpa was apparently one of the first Anglican ministers to play a guitar for services. I have also been told that he occasionally wore his logging boots under his robe. Back in the early post-war years Grandpa came back from the Navy and worked as a hand logger alongside his dad. He met his 18 year old sweetheart when he snuck into a high school dance. She looked just like Snow White. Grandma Elaine bravely followed her new husband into the rugged logging community on the North West Coast. They raised five children on a house float in Echo Bay before Grandpa’s major career change.

A travelling missionary met Grandpa told him that they need men in the ministry. Grandpa answered the call, packed up his house and family and moved from a tiny logging community to the wilderness of Kitsilano, where he began seminary.

The adjustment to city life I know more from the children’s perspective. My uncles said they felt a little out of place showing up at high school with their crew cuts and lumber jack shirts when compared to their “greaser” classmates. But soon they adjusted to city life and were drag racing down Kingsway. My mom missed the coastal life and was glad when we eventually moved to Vancouver Island. My grandpa missed the country life too. Too many people in a city. So less than 10 years after moving to Vancouver he and Grandma journeyed North to Terrace to continue ministry and build a farm. Grandpa built their little house in the woods and windmill to generate some power, the sheds and the outhouse…

The outhouse was no ordinary outhouse because beside the toilet hole there was a bucket of crayons. Each patron of the outhouse was welcome to write a message on the wall. “Expect the Unexpected” My mom wrote. Her life slogan. “How do you flush this puppy?” from Uncle Michael. I remember trying so hard to write something meaningful or witty but it never came. So I just admired the words of others.

We loved walking along the rail road tracks behind their house. Grandpa led the way with his huge walking stick and his big dog close behind him.

It was on those tracks that my parents strolled as a newly engaged couple “meeting the parents”. It was on those tracks that my sister got her surprise marriage proposal. It was a surprise for Jonathan too. Maybe it was because the beautiful mountains and fresh Northern spring air created such a romantic atmosphere that he just had to pop the question.

Eventually Grandpa and Grandma had to say good bye to their farm and moved to a trailer in town. Their home still carried serenity during each visit. We had morning tea, mid morning tea and afternoon tea and chatted about gardens and memories.

I remember going to Ferry Island, with Grandpa and Grandma when I visited in 2009.  They weren’t going outside as often so this was a special trip and Grandpa was thrilled to be in the great outdoors once again.  So happy in fact that when Grandma and I were relaxing in the living room later, probably drinking tea, we heard a noise coming from the kitchen.
“Lance, are you doing the dishes?!”  “He never does the dishes” She said to me, “He must be in a really good mood.”
He has passed his love of the outdoors onto his great granddaughter, my baby Elaina.  The only way I can get her to nap is to go for a walk outside. Even in the pouring rain.  Thanks for the nature loving gene Grandpa!
Even more than the nature gene,  I treasure the fact that every morning Grandpa and Grandma prayed for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I felt so safe knowing that whatever was going on in my life, Grandpa and Grandma were praying. Liturgy from the common prayer book came alive with Grandpa’s strong steady voice. He believed it and lived it.
I miss you already Grandpa.
 Thinking of not writing letters saying “Dear Grandpa and Grandma” makes me sad. Not hearing his rich stories and seeing his twinkling eyes makes me sad. Thinking of my grandma being away from her partner of 68 years makes me sad.
But  I am not sad for Grandpa. He is a pioneer going ahead of his family, as before, to a new land. A land where there is no dementia or pain.
The last time I saw Grandpa was Easter Sunday 2017.  I remember standing between him and Grandma at church singing their beloved hymns and saying “He is risen, He is risen indeed!”  Because Jesus has risen I can hope to stand beside my Grandpa once again.
Grandpa Lance, thank you for faithfully following the call of God in to the unknown. You have left an incredible legacy.

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