I am struggling tonight as I just heard that my Dad’s father, Poppy, fell and broke his hip tonight. I got to speak to him briefly, but he was already sounding a bit doped, as they’d given him some pain meds. He’s 88. Essentially he is the absolute heart and soul of our family. He is our centre. We’ve all come from him, look to him, and owe him a debt of some kind. Some emotional kind. He is an orphan who got to live his version of a dream by creating a giant, sprawling family. His village is the place I fondly refer to as my ‘ancestral homeland’.
When he had a stroke, more than 12 years ago, I was lucky enough to be there to ride in the ambulance with him the almost two hour ride into the city. He soon after learned to use a computer for the first time (since he could no longer build boats and fix engines) and wrote his memoirs. We happen to be currently in the process of ordering family copies of his updated version of the memoirs (280 pages, which include the history of the community in Newfoundland where he lived, and also, of our family tree as it grew).
Around 3 years ago, I was there the night he had a heart attack, and shared in the sense of blame we all nursed about him eating a ‘big feed of salmon and having some wine’. Later he had to remind us more than once that having a good feed, and a drink from time to time was one of life’s pleasures, and in his late 80’s that was no small thing. His nickname in our family and the community is the Skipper. This is a respected term, as he has captained more than a few boats. No matter that I am 40, I will never be ready to lose my grandfather. Tonight, as I await news, I am tearful and bereft. We are all children when it comes to facing the fragility or mortality of our elders. I have been so fortunate in reaching 40 with 3 grandparents still in my life, but strangely, this in no way makes me feel prepared for any kind of bad. Here’s wishing my Poppy safety through the night and I guess I thank the universe for this yucky reminder of what is most, most important to me and many of us.