Every once and a while I like to write something just for the sake of getting it out of my system and stopping it from polluting my overall cheery demeanor.
But this isn’t one of those times.
What I’m about to write is something that is important to me. It’s going to be about someone who I lost recently, the third person that raised me, my Grandmother Lil.
This is the Eulogy that I never had the words to actually deliver at her Funeral.
I’ve never really considered myself as having a “home.” Wherever my family happened to be at any particular place or time, I suppose that was “home” for me. But I never really thought, “this is home” to myself at any one of the houses I lived in. It’s a product of being a military brat, you move around so damn much that it’s hard to keep track of where you are from year to year, let alone try to create a sense of identity due to one’s culture and surroundings. Understand that I’m not complaining about this, only raising the point because I think it informs the rest of what I am about to say.
I was born in North Bay, Ontario. So whenever anybody has ever asked me “where are you from?” no matter how old I was, I have always first and foremost responded with “North Bay.” A small town where I only lived a year of my life. (And that was the first one!) The reasons for this are two-fold: A) I was born there and it always seemed much easier to reply with “North Bay” than it was to explain to whoever was asking that I move around almost every year and thus didn’t really know what “home” is as most others come to know it, and B) Because my Grandmother Lil lived there. For nearly 75 years. And no matter where we were living at any given time, my family and I would always end up back in North Bay at least once a year (normally for Christmas).
When my family moved to Germany in the summer of 1995, my Grandmother still lived in North Bay. Up to this point in my life the longest we had ever stayed in one place was 2 years. We ended up living in Germany for 4. A little over a year into our stay there, my Grandmother came to live with us. She would continue to do so for the last 14 years of her life.
14 years is a long time. It’s more than half my life (by an extra 4 years) and for quite a while, looking back at it now, things were pretty much great. My Grandmother was the kindest and most giving person I have ever known. No matter when she saw us, (before moving in with us) she would always have some small gift waiting for her two grandchildren. She loved us and we loved her. It was the picture perfect relationship between a grandparent and their grandchildren, you couldn’t ask for anymore. But my sister and I got older, and (maybe even more importantly) my Grandmother got older. And as is always inevitable when those things happen, relationships change.
The last five or so years of her life were hard on everyone. Despite us still loving her, and her still loving us, things were about as far away as imaginable from what they once were. And after years of this, last Wednesday, she passed away. And all those five years sort of drifted away in an instant, when I heard the words “she’s gone.” Because, in the grand scheme of things, the last five years of my Grandmother’s life might have been tough, but before that I had 17 great ones with her.
The following are my five favourite memories of her, in no particular order.
1. Watching “Ghostbusters” and “The Land Before Time” repeatedly with her as a young child. These memories account for some of my earliest and I can still remember putting my head behind her back when the opening scene of “Ghostbusters” scared me and the death of Littlefoot’s mother in “LBT” made me cry. Interestingly enough (or maybe there was more at work to this than just coincidence) but after not having seen “LBT” in probably nearly 18 years, the day of my Grandmother’s wake I turned on the T.V. in the hotel and that film was on. I couldn’t do anything but just stare as the memories came flooding back.
2. Walking with her from her home in North Bay to a Mac’s Milk that was right around the corner. When I was younger she used to push me in a stroller and said that I would call out to her “Mama!” (my name for her at the time) and raise my fists in the air, acting like a boxer. She knew that this meant I wanted a wrestling magazine, which she would then, of course, subsequently buy for me, and me being the little prick I am, once I’d get home, I’d run under the table and rip out all the pages. Apparently that’s what I thought magazines were for.
3. In Germany we would do most of our shopping at an American Military Base, of which I forget the name of right now. (Though I want to say Schinnen?) They had a small movie store there, and since I have always loved movies, I often asked my parents or Grandmother to buy me a new VHS so I could watch it at home. There’s no point in hiding that I was a fairly spoiled kid growing up, so for the most part they would always buy me one. This one time I was alone with my Grandmother in this store when I saw some movie that I decided I must have. I took it to my Grandmother and asked her to buy it for me. In an extremely rare instance, she told me no, she didn’t think she had the money. Me, once again being a brat, decided to tell her that it’s okay, she could just put it on her credit card. I’m 23 years old now and I still barely know how a credit card really works, so the fact that I said this to her back then just means that I thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that got me whatever I wanted. To her credit, she still said no. But this would not stand with me. So I ran out of the store to find my mother who was at the nearby clothing store with my sister. I recounted to her my tale of woe. The first thing I said upon seeing her was “Grandma’s being stingy with her credit card!” My Grandmother was following after me as quickly as possible and when she finally caught up with us, she found my mother laughing in hysterics. I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that I left the military base later that day with the movie. That’s just the kind of person my Grandmother was.
4. Once again in Germany, my mother had left myself and my Grandmother alone at a local playground in the Canadian military base so that she could pick up my sister from somewhere. I was having fun climbing all around the many different obstacles when I decided I would have much more fun sharing in this adventure with my Grandmother. From the top of the structure I called for her to come up and meet me. At this time, my Grandmother was nearly 78 years old. But I honestly couldn’t understand why she couldn’t climb up to meet me, so after she initially said no, I kept begging her to come up and go down the slide with me. (Have I mentioned what a little prick I was?) And of course my grandma eventually agreed. So, up some twine netting my Grandmother climbed to meet me. Once she reached the top, she realized that there was no way she wanted to go down this slide, and of course, wasn’t this the time that my mother decided to show up at the park with my sister. At first my mother was furious, trying to find some way for my Grandma to get down, but the easiest way was apparent… it was the slide. So promising to catch my Grandmother, my mother finally convinced her to go down it. My Grandmother must not have been on a slide since her own childhood because she forgot to do the one thing you always need to do while going down a slide, put your feet down at the end. So because she didn’t stop herself, my Grandmother went flying off the slide and landed on her rear, which caused a massive tremor to shoot through her body and send her shoes flying off her feet in two different directions. In my 23 years of life, that is the only time I can actually remember peeing myself from laughing so hard. And thankfully, besides a bruised ego, my Grandmother remained more or less unhurt.
5. All of the many Christmas’ that my family shared in my Grandmother’s house before she moved in with us. They remain the only Christmas’ of my childhood that I can remember with any clear sense of vision and they were my favourite. The days spent there were really the only ones that I can ever really remember myself thinking, “this is what home feels like.”
So now after taking my Grandmother from the city of Kingston where she passed, back to North Bay, all I have left to say is:
Welcome Home Mama.