Grandad’s Long John’s (Oct 1994)

Time….time, it seems endless and I try to make the most of it. I always have so many things that I want to do that as soon as one project is near completion, I usually have two more projects on the go. Sure, I am able to prioritise my activities and I have a good sense of timing, so it appears that I accomplish much. The real test is yet to come as fall arrives and I start back to work full-time aside from publishing ISSUES on a monthly basis. The Holistic Healing Centre will be organized by Jan and some volunteers and shouldn’t take up too much of my time, especially if I can stop talking so much! People are important to me and each one that I touch who decides to change to a healthier, more balanced life style is a bonus point for me, for word of mouth is the best advertising I know. I have visions of the population becoming healthier as individuals each are involved in the process of listening to their bodies. It is wonderful having lots of energy and feeling satisfied that life is fulfilling.

Right now, I am enjoying a few minutes of solitude as I listen to the birds chirp and Penticton Creek rush by. The Holistic Healing Centre and my apartment are both situated so that Penticton Creek surges by on two sides: the joy in my heart increases and my body rejuvenates whenever I am near it. In Rosswood, my family had a creek on two sides of the homestead with lots of birds chirping and singing. This month’s cover photo shows Chuck, Grandad’s nephew, buzzing the logs with David steadying them and Mike and Bill hauling them away. In the background is the ol’ school bus “Chinook” that my parents used to make the trek northwest from Alpena, Michigan. The tattered roofs belong to shacks that we eventually fixed up so that Grandma had her own place when she came to visit. I should clarify for my long-time readers that Grandad was my mother’s grandfather and Grandma Zoe was Mom’s Mom.

There was always laundry to be hung on the line and I enjoyed doing that task much more than washing dishes. It was my time to get out of the house and meditate while I hung each article of clothing with just with enough drape so that the entire basket would fit on the line to dry.

After we moved to town, I still hung up the laundry. When I got married, the first thing I did was to put up a clothes line in the back yard. I listened to my neighbours complain about the unsightliness of people’s underwear hanging on the line, but it didn’t matter. I enjoyed getting out of house, listening to the birds chirp, talking to my hens and doing a quick check of the garden while I hung up the laundry. My husband bought me a washer and drier as soon as our first child was born and I appreciated it in the winter time, but if it looked like the clothes had half a chance to dry outside, then outside is where I took them.

Grandad always wore his long johns. During the summer months, they were his pyjamas and in the winter time, you could see them under his shirt collar. So come laundry time, there was always at least one pair of long johns on the line. In the winter when the clothes had to be dried inside, we would put them on hangers and hang them on the curtain rods in the kitchen. When Grandad died, I inherited his best pair of wool long johns and a soapstone carving. The long johns I still wear, especially now since I have started working at the Summerland Arena. The soapstone carving is getting more precious all the time as I am coming to appreciate the simpler things in life …like true friendships and these old photographs. The soap stone carving is of two men hugging in their native parkas, their arms making a continuous circle around them both.

Grandad was one of the most non-judgemental, loving, wise, quiet souls I have ever met. My ex-husband Rae would run a close second. Both of these men married women who were busy bees who loved to do, just about anything. Grandad’s wife is the woman I talk about in my stories and they lived in the Arctic. He stayed home and cut fire wood while she flew to Edmonton with furs to sell so that she could purchase a scow and come back with a year’s worth of food and supplies for the town of Aklavik. It would take her two months of navigating the mighty McKenzie River to get the supplies home. She was the only women to ever do it, and the only person to ever do it twice in one year. When she died scrubbing the wood floors of her hotel/trading post, a runner was sent to fetch Grandad, for he was tending to his trap line. After the funeral he donated their hotel/trading post to the Anglican church and went back to Grimshaw, Alberta to stay with his brothers, till my Mom, his grand-daughter phoned and invited him to help her and Dad homestead in northern BC.

He lived with my Mom and I, supporting her emotionally and financially after my parents split up. After my first child Gordon was born, I was invited to live with Grandad and Mom once again, and look after the old house. I enjoyed Grandad’s company for one last year before he passed away at the age of 88, when I was eighteen years old. He died in his sleep and if he hadn’t had so many wrinkles on his face, you would never have guessed how old he was. He always had one cup of coffee and one hand-rolled cigarette every morning after his two mile walk… till the day he died.

I can still hear my Mom giving Grandad heck for smelling up the house. Once in awhile, Grandad would hide a big chunk of cheddar cheese in his room. Wrapped in wax paper and not refrigerated, it would get mouldy and smelly with time. Then Grandad would know it was ready to eat and he would take out his pocket knife and slowly and with the deliberate pleasure of a connoisseur, he would slice off little pieces and let the mould melt in his mouth. I am told that this was part of his upbringing … up north there was very little commercial penicillin so most trappers kept a slice of cheese wrapped in wax paper in case it was needed. He was also a pack rat: every nail that he found and every piece of string that ever came into our house was tucked away somewhere in his room.

One of Grandad’s favourite sayings was …. “Time… lots of time,” as mother would try and rush him to get ready for something. Quite often they arrived late according to white man’s time, but as far as Grandad was concerned, he was always … right on time.