Ottawa Memories

This week’s post is late because I just got back from a vacation. As you can guess from the title, I went to Ottawa. A friend and I wanted to do some tourist stuff for her birthday, and it was my grandfather’s 90th birthday this weekend. I saw Parliament Hill cats, street performers, ate at a great jazz bar, and nearly walked my feet off on some pretty great tours. And I was sitting here puttering and writing about that until I remembered something that made me delete all of it. It just hit me. 

When I was three, my mum and I lived with my grandparents in Ottawa. Some of my earliest memories are riding the bus past parliament, freezing my butt off at the Rideau canal, and exploring their house that looked so big when I was small, where I was just tall enough to reach the string for the light in the basement if I stood on my toes. My grandma and grandpa, or nana and poppa as they’re called in my family, were always there. Even when we moved away we’d try to visit once or twice a year, usually at Christmas. My family’s never made a big deal out of holidays, but it’s a good time to get together, and we were usually off from school or work. There’d be presents and dinner, and my nana would always carefully cut off the wrapping paper and fold it, as if saving it for next year.

I remember their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and hanging out with my cousin Christopher the day they renewed their vows, and going down to Sarnia for their sixtieth, which started a trend of visiting there at Easter which I hope continues long into the future. I remember being with them at my uncle Arvi’s funeral, crying because no one should have to outlive their son. I remember being seven and my poppa making me a toy catapult from a picture he saw in a magazine, down in a basement that smelled like fresh sawdust. I was never allowed down there, for fear that I’d put my head in a table saw or somesuch. It was probably a well-justified fear, too. I wasn’t a terribly sensible boy.

They were always there, though I always knew they wouldn’t be forever, even though we joke about my poppa’s immortality. He’s been through major surgeries, broken bones, and dozens of other incidents through the last twenty years, and always come out perfectly fine. He’s gotten smaller, or I’ve gotten bigger, but he’s as hale as hearty as I remember him years ago. But yesterday he asked if I was coming to dinner. We’d just had his birthday lunch together, with my mum, my aunt Louise and my aunt Anne, my nana, and my friend Emma. It was her birthday as well, so we already had a birthday dinner planned. That was why we did lunch. But it wasn’t the nagging expectation that I’ve heard about in other people’s families (mine’s not big on that), he just couldn’t remember.

You see, recently I found out he’s been diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s. It’s mild, as far as I know, but it means that he forgets things, and he’s going to start forgetting more. My nana and poppa spent most of the weekend wandering down memory lane, talking about old times, mostly times from before I was born, and I don’t wonder why. They lived through the depression, the second World War, and raised three children during the Cold War. After over sixty years together, they have a lot of memories to go through. But my poppa is going to forget things, and all of those things that I remember, whether it’s him letting out his old dog on the farm when I was two, or how he always kicks my ass at darts when I’m visiting, he’s might forget. I can’t stop that. For as long as I’ve been alive, my grandparents have been stand up people, the kind you can lean on no matter what. But now my poppa’s going to need to lean on me, because sometimes he’s going to forget. And whenever he does, I’ll remind him.

I’d feel like an asshole plugging blog posts after this, but there were some. Mostly this is here to mention that I turned in my second paper before I left for Ottawa. One more to go.

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