Goodbye Grandpa.

grandpa and the shake
Originally uploaded by julieboddy
My grandpa Jim was never a man of big stature, but in my childhood memories he is a giant. Whenever I think of "home" in the familial core-being sense, it's his house on Critchfield Road which pops into my head, a place that serves as backdrop to most of my truly pleasant childhood memories. Grandpa in the garden picking beans or fussing about rabbits. Grandpa in the kitchen, peeling apples for pies. Grandpa in the living room with a pile of books and classical music on the hi-fi. Grandpa laying face-down on the floor while my sister and I walk up and down his spine in our bare feet. Grandpa loudly cursing at his new-fangled gadgets like the monstrously-sized 1980s microwave or VHS player. Grandpa taking a nap in the recliner despite my protests for him to play with us instead, telling me he's just "catching 60 winks". Grandpa growling at my sister and Dad because they are cheating at cards - again. Grandpa smiling with pride at my mother when she picks us up after classes, treating her as if she was his own child. Grandpa, my real-life Papa Smurf, watching cartoons with me followed by a grisly war movie or Madonna videos on MTV (shh don't tell Grandma!). Grandpa with a glass of sherry in one hand and the other hand petting the dog with love, the smell of his baking pies always in the background. These are the youthful memories I have of the man and the house that define "home" for me at the basest of levels.

As I grew older and more jaded (or maybe realistic?), my understanding of Grandpa Jim began to change, to grow more deep and less naive. I began to see not only his strength and beauty more clearly, but also his vulnerabilities and flaws. His huge dependence upon my grandmother and his nearly-smothering love for her. His ridiculous prejudices and immense secrets, especially those in regards to a distant past he rarely spoke of. Vast holes in him caused by the war, his childhood, the times before his brain tumour. His very complicated relationships with his own children, which contrasted so greatly against the absolutely uncomplicated one he had with me and my sister. His ability to anger too easily and his need to feel at the centre of things at all times - a need which grew greater the more frail he became. But it's not only his failings and frailties that I noticed as I aged...I also grew to appreciate his intelligence, his candour, his dry sarcastic wit, his generosity, and - most selfishly - his ability to love me no matter what ugliness I showed him, whether that be shocking blue hair or a shocking foul mouth.

To use a cliché, life is full of regrets. I regret I didn't spend more time with you before you died Jim. I regret I didn't know you at your end as well as I did at my own beginning. I regret not being home for your funeral, immensely. But please know that I am also grateful. I am grateful for the things you taught me growing up, especially the love of books, swimming, vegetables, cards, and just generally having a good time. I'm also very grateful that the final years of your life brought so many good things back into my own, especially as it relates to my Dad. You were the anchor which tied him to Columbus for the last several years, and his grandchildren are reaping the benefits of having their 'Grandpa Longhair' nearby and loving them so.

Thank you for everything Grandpa. I miss you already.


  1. How beautiful! Truely a moving tribute. I think a game of cards is on the 'cards' to toast Grandpa.
    Lots of love
    M x

  2. Oh Jules! I'm sooo sorry for your loss. This is a beautifully written illustration of your grandpa and the love you have for him. You and your family are in my thoughts.