Canadian Hero

April 15, 2008 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

I’ve, obviously, been very lax about updating Canadian Fermentation lately.  This has been the result of several converging life issues.  I’ve avoided, for the most part, making this a personal blog but today, for various reasons, I’m going to break that rule.  I think it’s fine posting personal issues and experiences here if it’s relevant to the concept of ‘Canada’ or ‘What is Canada’ or  ‘Something  To Do With Beer Or Pornography’, but for the most part I want to use this forum to focus on Canadiana.  This post is going to be all personal.

One of the reasons I haven’t been updating lately is that I’ve been feeling down and drained.  It’s nothing new.  I go through the occasional phase of mild depression which results in massive disinterest in most things I usually enjoy.  During these times I usually, unless it’s work related, don’t turn on my computer, or check my personal email.  That means that along with avoiding my own blog I haven’t been reading any one else’s blog either.  This means I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t had any sparks or catalysts to prompt me to follow up on a particular topic like I have had in the past.  Even though the posts don’t always work out there is always a reason for writing it.  There is something that I’ve recently read about or thought about or come across that has inspired me in some way to take the time to write about it.  When all you want to do is sleep or watch movies that doesn’t leave much room for creative thought or the will to read and educate oneself.

Good.  I actually feel better having got that off of my chest.

I now want to talk about my Grandfather.

He is, in many ways, an enigma to me.  Our relationship for the most part has been very strained over the years.  I had the (mis)fortune of growing up with my Grandparents, which on the one hand was kind of cool since they were Grandparents and we all know how Grandparents treat Grandkids; with much more leniency then they do with their own children.

On the other hand, although I don’t think I was a bad kid as a teen, I was a really undisciplined kid with very few parental boundaries, and so was apt to behaviour that in retrospect was not very healthy.  I came very close to dropping out of high-school and was lucky to scrape through into University.  The problem was that, for the most part, in the past I had been able to skate through classes without much effort, pulling off decent, but not outstanding grades.  Yeah, I was one of those kids that was able to stay near the top of the class without actually studying much, or doing homework unless I really had to.  Most of my assignments went in late.  I was lazy.

Basically, what I’m saying is, is that the last thing in the world that I needed was leniency.

In contrast, my Grandfather is a Canadian Hero.  He was a soldier for the Canadian army in World War II.  He volunteered for duty and spent time in Italy, France and Belgium, assisting in the fight against Nazi tyranny.  I’ve heard his stories about how some of his comrades were killed, men who had their skulls sliced off by shrapnel and men who were buried alive after a bombardment.  He was lucky to come through the war unscathed.

He’s worked hard all his life.  He grew up in rural New Brunswick during the depression.  He’s a ‘blue-collar’ man, working in factories, working with his hands, and fixing his own cars.  He built things and he destroyed things.  On the other hand I don’t think he’s ever read a book or appreciated a movie that had a plot that was unrelated to war or cowboys.

Basically, to sum up, he and I are polar opposites.

The man is eighty-eight years old, and he still works in the yard.  He lives for work.  He works for the sake of working.  He doesn’t know anything else and I believe he would be dead right now if he wasn’t able to continue to work and do physical labour.

This winter past my Grandparents backyard patio became a swamp whenever there was rain or a snow melt.  This would result in their basement flooding.  This past weekend I helped my eighty-eight year old Grandfather pull up the patio stones, redistribute the soil underneath so that it would slope away from the house, and then resurface the area with the stones.

Patio stones weigh, I’m guessing, around fifty to sixty pounds each.  My Grandfather was going to lift all the stones by himself, before I told him I would do it for him.  At first he insisted on helping me lift them which caused me no end of grief.  On the one hand I could move the stones quite well by myself and so really didn’t need his help and didn’t want him to strain himself.  On the other hand I didn’t want to be rude and to shut him totally down; like I said he lives for work.  He still believes that he’s the only one who can do these tasks, and so thinks that he needs to be involved in all aspects of the work.

Eventually I just worked a little more quickly and got to the stones before he did and pulled them up solo.  After a while he stopped trying to help me left them and seemed to be OK with the arrangement.

This weekend the weather was perfect for this type of work; warm enough that I could work in a t-shirt, while remaining cool enough that you couldn’t overheat working hard.  The whole time I was working I kept thinking to myself it was the perfect situation to have a beer; manual labour, warm and sunny day, working with my Grandfather.

One thing all male children should do with their father-figures at some point in their lives is to drink a beer with him.  It’s as close to anything that we have in North America that resembles a coming of age ceremony between a man and his father.

I had never drunk a beer with my Grandfather.  Our relationship over the years has been strained at the best of times.  This weekend felt like the perfect time to share this moment with him.  My Grandfather was never a huge drinker, and only has an occasional beer, mostly during holidays, now-a-days, so I wasn’t sure whether or not he’d be into it.

“Hey, Gramps,” I said after awhile.  “How about I go to the Beer Store and grab us some beer.  It’s the perfect day to have one.  Nothings as satisfying as a cold beer after hot labour.”

Surprisingly, he agreed, and so after I returned with a six-pack of Moosehead we sat down and drank a beer together.

It was a very good beer.

And that’s my story.  It’s a little long and I’d be surprised if anyone made it to the end.  If you did, though, thank you for letting me share this little part of me with you.  I’m not sure why I wanted to write about all of this on Canadian Fermentation.  I’m hoping that this is the only time I’ll write about something like this.  But, none the less, here it is, and it’s going to stay.

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