The first time I met Brendan's dad I was in high school. I'd rung the bell and he came to open the door for me. I only caught a glimpse of him in his nightgown fleeing up the stairs as he hollered for Brendan to come. That might have been the start of the friendly competition Brendan and I had for years over whose dad was weirdest. Eventually we declared a tie, though the kids did dub Christian "Silly Grandpa" so it's possible he had the edge.
He might have been silly sometimes but what I remember most is how thoughtful he was. When our household wasn’t feeling well there were often special deliveries of what he called vitamin B (bananas) and vitamin C (grapefruit) delivered despite protests that we would manage. In later years this was joined by C-Boost juice, which he swore was a cure-all. If there was any hint of a chill Christian always had to make sure we were properly covered in sweaters and blankets, especially around the middle. Some might think the spiders hidden under cups in the basement were a diabolical plot but really it was because he preferred to let them out gently into the garden instead of killing them.
Christian was a fantastic teacher too and was always ready to share his extensive knowledge, especially about the stock market. He and Brendan could talk back and forth for hours. Despite his obvious abilities, he sometimes flattered me by assigning a little research project for facts he could use for a news article or to convince the condo board to come around to his way of thinking. He was a persuasive man. I love it that his sons look and act a bit more like him every day.
I asked the kids what they wanted to tell people about their Grandpa. Matthew isn’t verbal enough to tell us much yet, but Margaret tells me that Grandpa could and frequently did do a great Matthew impression. I gather Matthew is quite reminiscent of Christian as a child. I know Matthew enjoyed visiting with Grandpa very much as we had many requests for “Ding dong Grampy. Play play. Me Me. Read Read. Now. Now.”
Erika told me: “Grandpa did lots of nice things for people like when we went to the Nutcracker one of the people dropped their money and he picked it up and gave it to them. My favourite memory of Grandpa is going to the Nutcracker with him. There were lots of people there and when I was little I was scared. He helped me not to be scared. I liked to read stories and play games with Grandpa. He would make a sound - they were really funny noises - and I would have to guess what animals they were. If I got it right he wouldn't tickle me but if I was wrong he would tickle me and I would laugh. Once we did a really hard puzzle together. I kept trying to put them in the wrong places but Grandpa told me where to put them and he was always right. When he came over to our house when I was really little like four or five we used to build things out of blocks. At the cottage we used to sit together and watch the birds and canoes on the lake. At the bonfire we went out to feed the ducks and watched them go yonk yonk yonk. It was really funny.”
Maria said: “He went with me at the cottage and at the dragon boat place. He liked to play with me. At the dragon boat place we watched Grandma and Daddy paddling and we cheered. My favourite memory of Grandpa is building a sand castle with him at the cottage. Also I was inviting him to my birthday and he also invited me to his house to play with the tinker toys with him. He let me put the last piece on the tinker toys.”
When I asked Elizabeth what she would tell people about her Grandpa, she told me “Grandpa was my grandpa and he died because he had a broken heart. Daddy is his children and so is Chris and Mark. He was a boy and he had short grey hair. He was really really nice. I went to his house lots. Grandpa let me play with his tinker toys and sometimes he played too. He likes teasing me lots. He's called silly Grandpa because he doesn't want to go to the swimming pool except to take pictures and he says the next time he will swim and I will take the pictures. My favourite memory of Grandpa is his birthday because he let me sit on his lap and blow out the candles and take them out of the cake and even open his presents. Grandpa likes to sleep at the cottage. He takes his sweater off and ties it around his middle without the arms. He really liked the cottage because there are a lot of deer and wolves around there. Sometimes we would go out and listen to the wolves.”
There are certainly many Grandpa stories that form our family lore – too many to share here and I’m sure there are still some I haven’t heard yet.
He always used to wrap up conversations with me by saying “All the best”. Today it’s my turn.
All the best, Vati. We miss you.