Sunday, November 05, 2006

Love and miss you, Grandpa

This would have been my Grandfather's 91st birthday, born Nov 5, 1915 in Laval des Rapides, Quebec. He passed away in 2002 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's. I feel his presence and influence in my life yet.

Like others of his time, the Depression and the World Wars had a profound impact on him. He was always very disappointed that he did not serve in World War II. Due to health reasons that existed at the time, he was rejected for service. I remember my innocent question to him in my preteen years when I realized that he would had been a young man in the World War II years. He answered my question about his service as if he had rehearsed it for a long time, and had been waiting for that moment. As a matter of pride he did not want his decendants to think that he had shirked his duty. His father served in WWI when he was a toddler. Our family still has the numerous postcards sent home to his wife and young boys, marked "Somewhere in France", and written mostly in French, a language that none of his close living relatives now speak.

My grandfather had an inborn passion for recordkeeping that I believe was intensified by the fact that it was during the Depression that he would have been at the age where most of us learn our lessons in how to manage money. How many people do you know who keep a meticulous personal automotive log, detailing mileage to the gallon for every single gallon of gas purchased? My grandparents did. I remember being on a road trip with them as a child, and they had made the decision ahead of time that they would need gas at this particular point, but would not stop at any station that was selling gas over 41 cents a litre. This type of discipline seems dreadfully old fashioned now to a lot of us, but in the age of instant gratification and record setting personal debt, maybe we all should be a little more circumspect. I am at present learning frugality skills such as he embodied, using as a framework the system Your Money or Your Life. I like to think that he is helping me achieve these skill of record keeping and a certain amount of discipline and consciousness, as it certainly doesn't come as easily to me as it did for him!

He was a person who was very meticulous and took pride in his work as an estimator. When they finally allowed him to retire, quite a few years after he was planning to retire, it took 3 workers to replace him. That is no exaggeration. Retirement was hard on someone like him who thrives on industry, and his physical and mental decline was rapid after retirement, in the absense of something to focus on which really required his attention. After almost a decade, he finally needed full time care to deal with now-advanced Alzheimers disease.

On my last visit with him during Christmas 2001 when I was visiting Ontario, he was having a good day. By this point, he was normally constrained into attempting to join a conversation with one word responses, some of which would not make a lot of sense. When we noticed that he was attempting to join a conversation, all the rest of us in the room would be quiet, as if waiting for an oracle to speak. At first he would not believe that I was there to visit him, as I did not live in the area anymore (which was heartbreaking to hear). However, he seemed to believe my airplane story :-). Then he floored us all by asking about how his other grandchildren, also in Vancouver, were doing. This was quite a leap of logic for him by this time (not to mention the recent past such as the advent of my schoolage cousins was probably harder for him to remember), and we felt so lucky that he was having a good day on this visit, which ended up being the last time I saw him. Before I left, I saw that the movie "Gone with the Wind" was on TV. I knew he was a fan, so I offered to put in on for him, which he was happy about. In years past, he had given me his 1934 original version of the book, as I had wanted to read it. It is a prized part of my book collection.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa


Blogger KleoPatra said...

Wow, what a moving post. Thank you for sharing from the heart. I love this, Kareno. Your grandfather was lucky to be so loved and appreciated. Alzheimer's is such a debilitating disease... i sure hope we can find its cure soon...

9:52 p.m.  
Blogger bowiechick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:14 p.m.  
Blogger Kareno said...

Thank you for your kind words Kleo...I do hope that a cure for Alzheimers is found, when so many people take it for granted that it is has something to do with normal aging, which it does not. It felt good to give my grandpa the gift of a little remembrance post.

Tana, it was nice to meet you too after all this time. Everyone is welcome to comment here. You will have to tell me your beef with that book sometime. Thank you for the offer of the cookbook loan. I will email soon.

11:11 p.m.  
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