Today marks my grandfather’s two years passing away.
My grandfther was not the best father. He was definitely not the best grandfather. He had his issues, we had some problems, but what family doesn’t? No family is perfect. And I loved my grandfather dearly. I also hated him. But I loved him.
Because of him, I have some of the best childhood memories I could ever ask for.
- He would bring me on his skidoo during winter and we would ride for hours in the woods, on the frozen river and in teh fields surrounding his house. He had also screwed a big wooden box on two skis so that my siblings and I could sit in it and he attached it to the back of the skidoo. Hours and hours spent riding with him, feeling absolutely free, coming home with red, cold cheeks and a runny nose.
- In the warmer months, he would bring us with him on his wood land he owned and let us play there while he would chop wood to make fireplace logs. In his retirement, he was working kind of as a lumberjack, making fire wood for his friends and neighbors, selling it. I was lucky enough to learn how to work a few logging machinery.
- He had this big John Deer backhoe that he loved sitting us in the bin and drive us around on his land. He would then stop, let me hop into the cabin and pull my siblings high in he air, because he knew I was terrified of heights.
- He taught me to drive on his very, very old Kubota tractor. This is a skill I sadly lost, as I do not drive shift at all. But He taught me how to do it way back when I was much too young to be taught these kind of things. He did the same with my siblings as well.
- He would bring me fishing with him for weekends at his cabin, hours and hours north and we would spend days sitting in the boat, just the two of us, him with his fishing rod and me with my stick with a fishing wire attached to it, we called it “The Little Boy”. My mother learned to fish the same way. My siblings as well. This is probably one of my most cherished memories. To this day, whenever I go fishing, I’ll use my rod, but I’ll also make a Little Boy and fish the way I used to with my grandfather.
- Every single year, for 15 years, in the month of august or september, my grandparents, my parents, my siblings and I would go to the giant outdoors market and spend the day there, buying fresh vegetables and other home made goodies. It was my favorite day in the entire year. I loved it more than Christmas and Halloween combined. And that’s not small statement. Grandpa would literally buy us anything we wanted. Want a basket of carrots? You get it. Want 3L of fresh apple juice? You get it. Want a little cone filled with maple sugar? You get it. We NEVER took advantage of it. We would always be very reasonable with what we would take, but never backed out of anything. We literally had unlimited budget, but never bought more than maybe 25$ worth of stuff each kid. We knew our luck, we knew it was a priviledge and we did not want to abuse it and lose it. We would always go for the crepe stand, eat crepes there, then we would go and eat corn on the cob at one of the many corn stands. We our stand. We went there for 15 years. The lady there knew us. We would eat maybe 3 or for ears of corn each, every year. It was our ritual. I have not been since grandpa passed away. I can’t deal with the nostalgia it will bring me. It’s still too hard to even think about it, I’ve been tearing up just writing about this special day.
Two years before his passing, Grandpa was diagnosed with a lung disease. It was not cancer and it was most likely not curable. They said it would slowly degrade his living time, but there was no indications he would pass away in the next couple of years. We knew we had probably less than ten years left with him. But grandpa didn’t want to fight the disease. He was not having it, he did not want to be stuck in the hospital and had decided not to pursue treatments.
A few months after his diagnosis, grandpa had an accident. He went to one of his lands he owned, like usual, and for a few weeks, he had seen this log in the middle of the road and kept thinking “One day, a motorcycle will hit it and someone will get injured”, so he tought he would move it on his way back home. He picked the log, threw it in the ditch and went back to his truck. The effort probably took a toll on his body. He had a weakness and most likely blacked out a second or two. When he tried to hold himself, he accidentaly pu his truck on Neutral (he had one of those side shift trucks) and fell down under his truck. His truck ran him over and one of the back wheels got stuck between his shoulder blades. He had to wiggle hard enough to let the truck go over him and he passed out on the road. A guy on a motorcycle drove by and saw him, saw the truck in the ditch, called the ambulance and stayed until the paramedic arrived.
Grandpa was not meant to die that day. He broke 10 ribs, one of his ribs pierced a lung and he broke his shoulders, but he was alive and well, considering the seriousness of the accident. Also considering that he had a very, very big accident back in the 80s, where both my grandparents did a face-to-face with a car spinning on ice. Mom was just a teenager and she had to care for them for months and months as they recovered. But Grandpa faced this second accident with a smile and told us he wasn’t ready to go.
After the accident, Grandpa decided to do the treatments for his lung disease. It made him realise he was not ready to let his body go just yet. That’s also when we learned the doctor had given him 2 years to live with his lung disease. Grandpa had hidden it to us, because he did not want us to pity him.
Almost a year after the accident, Grandpa went for a routine check. He mentionned migraines, so they did a scan of his head. They found metastases in his brain. He only had a few months left to live, at most. And would go downhill, quickly.
Two months later, on September 13th, 2016, my grandma went to the camping grounds where they rented a lot during the summer time. She was going to shut down the trailer for the winter while Grandpa was working on the yard. They were gettign the house ready to sell, slowly but surely.
Grandma came back from the camping in the afternoon and found Grandpa’s tractor upside down in the hill. The house is on a lot facing the river and Grandpa had been working on the hill down to the river. Grandma knew it was not normal for the tractor to be upside down.
You can guess the rest.
When my mother called me to tell me what had happened, I laughed. Defence mechanism, probably. I cried a lot, but I laughed. There was no way my grandpa was going to let a disease take him. His mother had lived to 100 years old (Yep, I was lucky enough to know my great-grandmother until I was 22), his brother had survived to a freak saw accident that took his arm. There was no way a disease was going to take him.
My grandfather is a hero in many ways.
So today, as I celebrate my 8 month anniversary with my boyfriend, I’ll raise my glass up high in my grandpa’s honor who taught me one of life’s most valuable lessons: Cherish every moment you have with your loved ones, because you have no idea what tomorrow brings.