Monday, 12 June 2017

To Grampy David Watson

My grandfather died this past week. We had the funeral and burial yesterday in Centerville, NB where he laid to rest beside my Grandmother.

Grampy could be ridiculous at times.
My childhood memories of Grampy are vague. They mostly involve him leaving for the woods in the wee hours of the morning and returning at lunchtime to have a nap. And then not seeing him again until suppertime when we would have a meal of meat and potatoes because anything different like pizza or lasagna was considered "exotic."  In the evenings we would often play cards and no one wanted to be on his team because if you played the wrong card, you would hear about it.

As children, when we visited, we would run around the old farmhouse-turned-barn, jumping from the hayloft and feeding the cows. We would dare each other to go to the upper levels of the house and hold our breaths to see if the person would fall through the floor (it never happened). We would ride with Grampy in his truck and ask why the floor was packed with kitty litter boxes (it was his way of fixing a hole in the floor). He would often recruit us to pick off potatoes bugs from his garden but I'm pretty sure I just ended up eating the beans rather than being helpful.
Old farmhouse/barn
As a grandchild, you only ever see one small window into the life of your grandparent. You meet them after they've raise their children, after they've had a career, and when they are very much set in their routines. I don't think you really see them as a person with a life before you until you grow up yourself.

To me, Grampy was always the man who worked in the woods cutting down trees, watched TV way too loud, and liked to read books. He was hard to buy for because he would return most presents so we gave his candy during the holidays. Every time he saw Isaiah, he thanked him for taking care of me or for driving Amy and I to see him even though Isaiah had sat in the backseat the entire time. He saw the world in the certain way and enjoyed arguing that with other people.

As I've gotten older and heard more stories, I've started to learn about the complexities of my Grandfather. He was very pragmatic about nature and the circle of life. The deer heads hanging on the wall taught us pretty quickly about where meat came from. So it was a surprise to all of the grandchildren to have confirmation of the family legend that he couldn't take the cow that was named after one of the grandchildren to be slaughtered. He couldn't bring himself to "kill Andy." It was probably the last time the grandchildren were allowed to name the animals.

He was frugal and concerned about money but it was always to make sure his family would be taken care of. He sometimes took it a bit to the extreme. Like how he refused to buy new knobs for his stove top even though there was only one left so he had to switch it around if there was more than one burner on. How he "rescued" the "perfectly good" shirts that Grammy threw out and cut off the one good arm to would sew it to the body of another shirt. Nothing was ever to be wasted or thrown away.
Who needs this many saws?
I heard many stories of Grampy over this past weekend from his younger days. About how good he was at baseball. About how he loved to fish and play hockey. About how he made a rink for his children when they were little. About how good of a shot he was while hunting. A story that seems like family lore about how he once shot two birds with one bullet.

He loved family reunions and anniversary parties. He loved any time the family would get together to celebrate an occasion. We had to stop the traditional family softball games because he was still so competitive in his 80s that he slide into first base to avoid getting out (I wonder where we all get our competitiveness from). He tore his Achilles tendon but didn't tell anyone for over a day. He needed a cast and instead of staying inside to heal, he drove his lawnmower all over the property like a mobile scooter to tend to his garden and do other chores. It was hard to convince him to slow down. He had a giant 90th birthday party earlier this year which was attended by seemingly the entire family.

He was so happy to beat everyone at the family reunion sac race.
He was determined he would stay in his home until the day he died, and he did. He was still making rhubarb juice and clearing brush from his property the day before he died. He had his garden planted. I picked two tomatoes from the plants he had growing in his house. He had started an orange tree from a seed he planted.

On Saturday, armed with a hammer and axe handle for spiderweb protection, Amy and I went through the old barn for what will probably be the last time. We took pictures of all the old farm gear and laughed that anyone let us play in that place.
The old farmhouse is kind of creepy now.
Can't believe we use to play in here.
On Sunday I picked Grampy's rhubarb and today I've spent the afternoon making juice and freezing the rest for future pies.

I hope he died knowing that he took care of his family. That his family loved him and we'll continue to tell stories about him for years to come.

"No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away - until the clock he wound wears down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”
 ― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man


Sue said...

Sorry to hear about your Grampy's death but you have left me with a very nice picture of who he was and the love he had for his family which he has obviously passed along to his children and grandchildren. The memories and the stories will last and be enhanced as the ripples expand. Hugs!

Dayna Lymburner said...

Alley, you are sotalented in expressing yourself and your feelings. This tribute to your grandfather is beautiful and wonderful. I would think that anyone who reads it would feel a space in their heart that would have been filled having known him.
My opinion is
:that your Dad is quite a bit like him.
:You have reminded me that I wanted to make rhubarb juice this year.
:AND his competitive spirit has been extended to each of you. You use the cards that you have been dealt in
the most beneficial way. Your will, your faith and your competitive nature have served you well in your challenging lives.
Way to go Watson Family
Sorry for your loss, but Happy that you have great memories and lessons to be thankful for.

Ruth Boughan said...

A lovely tribute, Alley. I feel like I know him a bit now. Sorry for yours and your family's loss.

LittleM said...

I'm with everyone else that this helped me know a man I have no relation to in a beautiful way.

Dave said...

This is a wonderful commentary from a grandchild's perspective. I was able to spend a few days with Dave in mid May. Even though he was 90, he was still seeing into the future and asked me to help him do some things for him that would be useful later. We cut up a pine tree that an NB Power trimming contractor cut down but was going to chip (why chip it when he could burn it this winter?). I trimmed dead branches off the apple tree so the rest of the tree would be less stressed. I moved wire and scrap metal so he could mow around his transplanted fir trees. I helped patch a broken window at the old homestead so water damage would be minimized. I tilled up some ground so he could plant a garden for winter veggies. He was still working on his "to do" list just before he passed - definitely a "one off."

ttrails said...

Beautiful tribute to your grandfather, my husband's uncle. I have printed it off so Harold and Iris can read it. I am sure they will love it. Trevor was very impressed and expressed how well written it was. Thank you for this.