I wrote this a year ago but never published it, the memory was still too fresh for not just me, but for some of those I know would read it. After waiting about a week to post it, I decided I would wait a year, wait until it was easier for me, I can’t speak for anyone else, but just reading through it again wasn’t really much easier than it was writing it last year, but here we go anyway.
Living in Nova Scotia, I am an 18 hour drive from my family, and that can be difficult at times, some more than others. If I need to see someone quickly, that option doesn’t exist.
One such instance arose just last week when my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in his life. The first time was in 1977, a good 5 years before I was even born. From what I hear, he was essentially told he had colon cancer, then they removed the tumor, end of story. 37 years later, here we are with my grandpa at 88 years old going into the hospital for another reason, only to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. My first instinct was to go back to see him, not knowing how long he would have. It’s not quite so simple, especially with a pregnant wife I need to account for. It was on Friday the 14th and he had just been diagnosed, and an MRI the next week would tell us more, so I would wait until we found out more and maybe learn somewhat of a timeline for my grandpa.
On Sunday the 16th, my parents and brothers all made it out to the hospital to see grandpa. He had been groggy when taking his medication, and refused to take it to ensure he could see and talk to everyone on their visit. I spoke to my parents and brothers, and they told me that he was in good spirits, he had been laughing and telling jokes, a good sign I figured. After the MRI, we learned that the tumor was large, that it was prostate and colon cancer, and its removal was not an option. The doctors would meet later in the week to discuss treatment options, so I would again wait to find out more before rushing out. Thursday the 20th came around and we learned that his cancer would not be treatable, they would just treat the pain. I looked at my calendar and found that the next Friday would be when I could leave to come visit, just 2 weeks after his diagnosis. He might even be home by then and getting treatment there, who knew? The next day the unexpected happened; he got pneumonia. On Sunday morning March 23, 2014, my mom’s dad, the only grandfather I ever knew, passed away.
While I wish I could have seen him one last time, I can take some solace in the fact that when I last spoke to him, I was giving him the good news that he was expecting his 4th great-grandchild to be born in June. In his ‘man of few words’ style, we spoke briefly before he handed the phone off to grandma. I never spent a lot of time talking with my grandfather, but he would always listen, and he enjoyed a good bit of fun. I can still hear his laugh and that brings a smile to my face. He had some gags he used over and over, and we came to expect it from him, especially at the dinner table. Every one of my brothers could tell you the exact way he would finish a family meal, with an ‘ohhh I ate too much’, often followed by a ‘what’s for dessert?’ shortly after. I also can’t recall a meal where he didn’t act like he was stealing my dinner either. You had to be on the lookout for him, otherwise your plate would spontaneously end up in front of him and he’d be looking at you with a devious smile.
I only had one set of grandparents growing up, my dad’s dad died before I was born, and his mom when I was only a couple years old, so I have no recollection of her. My grandfather was what I thought a grandpa was supposed to be. He was a hard working, sweet man who came from a farming background and always had some sort of vegetable garden to harvest crops from out behind his house. We would go for walks behind his house in a forest that to me seemed endless at the time, we would always try to find deer antlers on our walks. He had more tools than I could ever count, and a multitude of sheds to hold it all, including a tractor which holds one specific memory for me. I don’t recall my age, maybe 5 or 6, when I was riding on the tractor with him. We were going from the front of the house out back with a load of manure on the front of the tractor. I guess there’s some sort of spreader attachment he had, and he was showing me this and that about the tractor when he accidentally hit some lever causing the manure to be spread. Well, that was just as we were passing the car parked beside the house. Of course, when we went in the house, the first thing he said was ‘ol’ Dussin did it’. He always called me Dussin or Dusser, as if my name had no ‘T’ in it, but that was fine, is sounded right coming from him.
I think it was the second last time I saw my grandpa which was my most memorable time with him. Despite all the time we spent walking the woods behind his house searching for antlers, or playing around his backyard or tool sheds when I was younger, and all the great memories, on this visit I paid a bit more attention to a grandfather I felt was getting up there in years and whom may not be around much longer. We talked a bit about life and such and he told me that he had very few regrets in life, one of which was not travelling and seeing more of the world. He told me that a group from his area would go out West every year when he was younger and help with the harvests and he went one time and loved it. He would have liked to have spent more time out there and maybe even have moved out there. He told me that he was happy for Robyn and I to have taken a chance and moved out to Nova Scotia, he said that the opportunity to do things like that, to get up and transplant, don’t come along very often. While he wished he would hove moved West, he said if he did that he never would have met my grandma. Grandpa shared with me that the key to his marriage was being friends with my grandma, and he should know, their marriage lasted 62 years.
During this visit, we took a little trip out to see a church with a stained glass window dedicated to my great, great, uncle, and from that came my most memorable experience with my grandpa. We came across the guy who purchased a truck from my grandpa’s father many years ago and still had it. It was a 1947 Ford F-47 pickup truck, still painted green as it was off the factory floor with ‘H.E. Weyler’ (my great grandfather was Harold Eugene Weyler) painted on the side, barely visible. To see my grandfather’s reaction to the truck was amazing. You could see him reminisce about his own father, and maybe a bit about life in general. I wish we could have bought that truck right then and there and frankly I still want that truck. I had grandpa sit in the truck for a couple pictures. He was wearing the perfect hat for the occasion too, as if we were planning a photo shoot. I admit that I don’t have many photos of my grandparents, but the few I got that day will be a treasured possession of mine for the rest of my life. I never felt a photo has embodied a man more than the couple I took that day. If I didn’t understand the full value of a photo before that day, I do now.
As we get older, and people and events in our life fade into the back of our minds and memories become harder and harder to access, we run the risk of forgetting entirely. If you have a family photo album I am sure you have looked at an old photo and triggered a memory of a person, place, or thing. Our mind just needs a little help getting to the memories at times, and photos are bridge to get us there. I love looking back at old photos and keeping memories alive. My daughter will never meet her great grandfather, but I can guarantee you she will know that he was a great man, a kind man, the best of all people.
Grandpa I miss you, I love you
Here are some photos of my grandpa.