Friday, March 23, 2012

Ninety five

Today would have been my grandpa's 95th birthday.

He was the youngest boy in a family of 15. His parents immigrated from "the old country" before he was born. They had seven or eight kids before they immigrated. (My sister, the informal family historian, thinks the eighth child was born on the way.) By the time he was born, they had a homestead. He grew up there, and when he became an adult, he took over the farm.

He married my grandmother in 1939. They had a double wedding. At the time, you couldn't eat between the time you got up and the time you took communion at mass, so weddings were often held in the morning, but they couldn't afford to feed their guests both lunch and supper, so they waited and got married in the afternoon.

They had three children and sixteen grandchildren. My family lived in Regina (a 2 hour drive away), and we visited roughly every second weekend. When I was twelve, my parents bought an old house in the tiny town 1/2 a mile away from the farm, and we were there every summer as well. (The joke was that we doubled the population of the town when we went out for the weekend.)

He loved horses. When we'd look at old pictures, he didn't always recognize the people, but he knew the names of every horse. I was the oldest grandchild, and when I was about five, he bought a pony. (Her name was Blondie. She had three colts, and when I was twelve I fell off one of them, landed on a fence, and broke my arm.)

For years, they had a dog. They were farm dogs - bigger dogs who stayed outside and followed my grandpa around while he did chores. (I did the same thing, but I got to go in the house, too.) When I was probably around 8, the dog was Charlie. Charlie was part-collie, liked people, and when we climbed a tree, he climbed the tree with us. He could also climb the ladder into the hayloft.

Sometime after Charlie, they had Amos. I was probably around 13 at that point, and Amos was my dog. It used to drive my grandparents crazy, because when I was out there, he'd come to our house and live there. He'd never bark when someone drove into their yard, but he'd wake the entire town if someone drove by on a road that might eventually allow them to reach our house. I spent hours petting that dog, and I held his head while grandpa pulled out the quills from his latest tangle with a porcupine.

The farm was full of fascinating things - an old blacksmith shop, old farm equipment, dozens of places to explore. They had a ... thingy that you use to make rope out of twine (I feel like there should be a word for that), they had a butter churn, they had crow bars and air compressors, a drill press and vises. The basement contained shelves of books. I spent hours lying on the bed reading.

Grandpa always made sure we had snacks - Old Dutch chips or bugles, usually - and sometimes we'd get a whole bottle of pop to ourselves. He was also a big fan of stopping for soft ice cream when we were in town. I never objected.

On the farm, you do pretty much everything yourself, and I remember helping reshingle the barn roof and put siding on the garage. (I'm not sure I was actually any help in either situation.) We weren't allowed on the barn roof normally, so this was exciting. (Um, and if you're reading this, mom, we never went on the barn roof except that one time.)

We rode in the back of the truck and in the front-end loader on the tractor. I got to drive the garden tractor - which was exciting when I was eleven, but now just looks like a big scam to get me to mow the grass. They had some old bikes that we could ride. One of them was one of those bikes with the high handlebars, but the handlebars wouldn't stay up, so we had to lean over to ride it. We called it the jelly roll. (Looking back, I'm not sure why they didn't just weld it into position.)

When I was sixteen, grandpa let me drive his new truck. When I was pulling into the (also new) garage, I hit the side of the door. He had to go out and use a sledge hammer to get it back in line.

My grandma died in 1994. My grandpa was lost without her, and he died in 1997. It's weird, but I still dream about him.


  1. Your grandparents, and your memories of them, sound wonderful. They are actually younger than my parents would be, should they still be living. That said, my grandparents, except for one grandma, were all gone by the time I came along, so there are few memories. I am working very hard to be a wonderful grandma that my grandkids will remember 50 years from now, long after I am gone. My hope it that they too will have wonderful stories to tell about us.

  2. Mom says it is called a rope maker.

  3. I was going to say the technical name is rope maker too!
    The jack was always fun to play on too :)
    Anonymous in Winnipeg