I was always a bit of a Grandpa’s girl.
I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it was because I loved sitting at his side and listening to hunting stories. When I was 11, I actually started trying to write them down with the intent of making them into a book, but alas, with the disorganized mind of an 11-year-old and the chaos of life in a large family, my notes eventually went the way of the Dodo, never to be recovered or completed. More is the pity, really, because he had some wonderful tales. How many girls could boast that their grandfather was a professional bounty hunter who had looked into the eyes of mountain lions and lynx and bears?
My grandparents figured largely in my life for a number of reasons, and in a weird way I have my mother’s divorces to thank for the enforced exposure with them at various times throughout childhood. Sharing a home, even for short periods of time, certainly fostered a closeness that I don’t think could have been gained any other way. For these things, I cannot feel regret.
When I was 6 and my parents split up, we found ourselves temporarily living with Grammie and Grandpa until Mom could secure a house for us elsewhere. During this dark period in our lives, these two became the very anchors of our young lives, the one unchangeable element in our rapidly changing environment. I remember bedtime stories: Grandpa in his corner recliner, illuminated in the soft yellow lamplight, reading Alice in Wonderland as we nodded off in the darkness.
Grandpa was always awake at first light, and, being a light sleeper, so was I. I would creep out of the sofa bed I shared with my two sisters and tiptoe into the kitchen to find him dropping bacon grease into the cast iron skillet and setting a pan on to poach our eggs. He would turn and smile at me, knowing I was up, and seemingly happy for the company. He taught me, at the age of 6, how to cook bacon and how to poach an egg. To this day, I would rather have that for breakfast than anything else on earth.
I treasured our private breakfasts, just me and Grandpa, two strips of bacon and a poached egg on dark toast, a quiet house and the warm circle of light over the kitchen table. We would talk quietly as we watched the blue jays and squirrels in the yard beyond the kitchen window. He was the only adult in my world who did not talk to me like I was a child, and I liked that. I liked that very much indeed.
After breakfast, it would be time for chores and to feed his pack of hunting dogs. I would trail him around the acreage like a shadow, maintaining an almost nonstop chatter, for which he had endless patience. Together we would work while the first warmth of sunlight brushed the tall, black pines to deep green under a pale sky the colour of hopefulness.
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