Grandpa Ralph: sauntering down memory lane

What a crazy week of organizing and going through some of my belongings in storage. It was quite shocking to see how much clothing I have acquired over the years … Boxes and boxes that have been stuffed away in the cubby hole – – in between travels, seasons and homes. I’ve been warned as to the extremes in temperature, expected in a Calgary Canadian winter, so it was important for me to find a wardrobe that adapted to both the winter climate and the potential for a career outside of the home. Gasp! It has been SUCH a long time since I have worked at a ‘real job’ that wasn’t contract (I’ve been my own boss forever!). Before my career as a web designer, I travelled the globe packing parachutes in addition to other interesting odd jobs. It’s been a spectacular run. And I’m surprised at how excited I am at the prospect of a short blast in the ‘9-5’ workforce, becoming a ‘civilized employee’, making a regular income, contributing as slaDE~ is, working full days and earning some of the $ desired for our travel dreams.

When last home, we visited with Grandpa and, during that time, suggested the idea of dinner before we left on our new adventure. With a twinkle in his eye, Grandpa raved about the sweet potato fries that could be found in Wingham. So there it was, the perfect opportunity to have a lovely evening with my 86 year old grandfather, eating great food in the company of a man with a brain as sharp and intelligent as any 30 year old. Walking and talking history. This man keeps up-to-date with news like no other … Several hours a day he spends researching the latest events on the web and then on top of it, reads the newspapers and informs himself with news programs. Quite inspiring really, to be so informed and sharp at such an age. Hurrah Grandpa! He also likes to read my blog :).

It’s kinda neat when I speak about my Dad’s side of the family: the Weishar clan. So please let me indulge you a bit!
Grandpa Ralph is a father to one of the largest families in Ontario (there are no twins and all are surviving except my uncle, who was the eldest of all the children; I have 4 Aunts and 15 Uncles from my Grandma Rose. Yes, this not a typo … 19 children! Grandma was an incredible — busy — woman) … Growing up with this many aunts and uncles was quite a memorable and very special experience. I even have an uncle who is YOUNGER than me (think about it … your mother having children when you are having children). Grandpa Ralph has led an incredibly full life, raising his children on a dairy-beef farm where Grandma Rose had the HUGEst garden, made the best fresh pea soup, ground and made her own sausage, whipped her own farm-fresh butter and always had a large tin of homemade cookies (peanut butter being my favourite — nobody ever had peanut allergies growing up?) on hand tucked away in the nook, above the old stairwell down to the cellar, that always smelled like potatoes. The family dining table was massive, lined by two benches, reminding me a lot on the lifestyle in Little House on the Prairie. All the children that were at home (quite a large number at one time) slept in big down feather beds, sometimes 5 to a bed at once. That was really unique, especially if there was a sleepover. My Grandma always served 3 steaming hot filling meals a day and the conversations at meal time was always lively and filled with camaraderie. We spent much time with the Weishar family, growing up; the farm that I was raised on was just down the road from my Grandparents home. In the summer we lived full time in the countryside (Teeswater) and on the weekends, for the remainder of the school year, we spent half of our time between Listowel and Teeswater, first in a single-wide trailer that was eventually replaced with a double-wide. A few years before Dad sold our farm, he had moved into the existing house and built a HUGE addition – – the homestead was usually inhabited by my sister and her family or by a close relative; we sustained ourselves quite nicely in the trailer otherwise. With so many boys in one family, snowmobiles, motorbikes and ball-hockey games were our means of entertainment. I was kind of a tomboy in my younger years. But I grew out of that quickly in my late teens (sort of?!).
It was quite the event when my Grandparents sold the farm to their son and moved into the small country town of Teeswater. I actually came to miss the times when Grandma would chase me and my cousins/uncles out of her only apple tree with a broom — she chided us on picking her green apples with the possibility of getting an upset tummy (me who used to drink vinegar and devour green apples slathered with salt, without ever the whim of an ulcer).

After giving you this little bit of my family’s history, it’s needless to say, the death of my Grandma had an enormous impact on my family and the community. Rose died a few years after Kenny. I wasn’t home for her funeral and actually only found out about her passing a few weeks after-the-fact; I was in Australia at the time and it was difficult to get a hold of me (those were the days before the internet was a part of my life). I knew before I ventured on my year long journey to Oz that I would never see Grandma alive again. Now, that was a difficult extremely sad goodbye. At the time, she was at home, bed-ridden and not in very good health. But she remembered me well and bid me a tearful farewell. I remember and admire Rose so fondly. My Grandmother sacrificed so much, always giving and expecting absolutely NOTHING in return … I believe that she was the closest notion to a Saint if such a person were to exist on this earth (a busy one at that!). Grandpa fared amazingly well after her death … And even to this day, I admire his stamina, adaptability and his kind, generous and naturally charismatic demeanour. My Father is very much my Grandfather’s son … they are alike in almost every way (the long Weishar nose and musical talent included :)).

Grandpa Ralph was in fine form when we arrived at his Teeswater home, alight with hundreds of Christmas lights and an inflatable Santa. My younger Uncle Darrel and his wife Jan share their home with Grandpa; I love the fact that Jan is so festively creative with all the holidays. And I’m sure with having some of his grandchildren around, Ralph is kept on his toes, vibrant and young. The ‘Anchor’ was a lovely little pub in downtown Wingham and we spent several hours lively with chatter enjoy a fine meal of fried cod and sweet potato fries. In fact, this is the first time ever that I can remember spending an evening and meal alone with my granddad, where other family members weren’t around (of course slaDE~ is family but he and I are one, really) … And it is moments like this that I can look back on and cherish my fond family memories. A walk down memory lane indeed!

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