My grandfather on my mom's side passed away this past Saturday at the age of 88. It was not unexpected but it hurts just the same. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a friend, a Canadian, a soldier. He meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
He was our Poppa. He was Daniel's Great-Poppa.
He cooked us perch for supper every time we visited. Every time.
He liked to tease us.
He made funny faces but stopped as soon as someone pulled out a camera.
He yelled sometimes... but what Holden doesn't yell sometimes?
He had opinions, a lot of opinions about a great many things. Lots of us are like him that way -- it's hard to get a word in edgewise when there are Holdens in the room.
He was a great drinking buddy. It's his fault if I was kind of drunk at Cousin Krissy's wedding.
He was as stubborn as the day is long. If you're a Holden with a stubborn streak, it's probably his fault. Some might say that's an understatement.
He was proud. He was proud of all of us, his kids, his grandkids, his great-grandkids.
He was the kind of grandfather you brag about on the school playground. "Oh yeah? Well, MY grandpa fought in World War II and got blown up by a land mine and lived to tell about it!"
He was handsome. It's not hard to see why Nana fell for him. Not hard at all.
He called us "Pet."
He loved to make his great-grandchildren laugh.
When my older sister and I were quite small, we would travel to Ontario in the summertime to visit Nana and Poppa at their home in Cornwall. They would be at their cottage along the St. Lawrence, and we would mostly spend the days in the water. It was so different from our home, this place -- if we walked up the road to the shop to buy Smarties and Coffee Crisps, we passed by people who spoke a different language, people who dressed differently than the people we were used to. We loved it. It smelled like the river, and exhaust from the road. Poppa always kept a pair of binoculars at the ready so we could inspect passing ships on the seaway, and he had a little book with all the ships' names and flags so we could look up the countries they came from. Norway. Denmark. Sweden. Canada, of course. Poppa had a boat, and while we there, he would take us out, maybe just one time, onto the river. The thought of that boat ride would sustain us for weeks before we ever left home, and remembering it after we returned kept us happy for months. The spray as we sped over the water. The musty smell of the fat orange life vests we wore. Poppa at the wheel pointing out interesting sights along the way -- but Poppa at the wheel was more interesting to us than any other sight. He would be shirtless and tan and his hair glinting in the sun. He loved that river.
And this more than anything is the way I remember him: the smells of the river, the fat orange life vests, the boat, the water, Poppa at the helm.
He was my Poppa.
I love him.
I miss him.