You lead a full and satisfying life. To you, three daughters were born, and have since gone on to do you proud. They presented you with grandchildren, whom you spoiled and cherished, every chance you got. You even got to see a great-grandchild before leaving this living world. Indebted, we are all a legacy to you.
You saw so much in your lifetime. The television came into existence, along with VCRs, fax machines and now the internet. You fought in World War II and served for many years afterwards in the Air Force. You sweated in steel mills, but I remember you sweating in the garden most. That lovely garden you built on Pender Island, along with a beautiful house to go with it. My memories of that house and garden will warm me for a long time to come.
I clasp my hand around a stone you polished and set. I do not know if it was specifically for me, but I cherish it none the less, for your effort into it. You were always working with your hands, creating something whether it was a green house, the ‘discomboobulator’, a ‘gotcha stick’, or your famous peanut butter sandwiches. You were always doing something. Even in your later years you were President of your local Legion, played bridge once a week with your lady friends on Pender, and you still had time to help advise your children and grandchildren on major life decisions. I recall my Mom, your eldest, asking for advice on job offers. Your youngest also consulted you for advice on important decisions. You had a good head on your shoulders and everyone knew it. Even in your last six months, you were looking into a job for me, despite major operations, recoveries and meeting the newest of your seven grandchildren.
Grandpa, you were the father that I never had. You taught Kerry and I (your favourites, you always said) how to spit, to collect wood and stones (still do that, especially this trip), to gather eggs when you had chickens, to fish, to play crib (and count via muggins), to blow my nose (which I should do now- sniff, sniff) and many of the manners that I rely on today. I have iconized (I know you would tell me to look that word up!) you in speeches (remember my grade 5 speech on your inventions!), in my memories of the summers Kerry and I spent with you and Grandma, (integral to my growing up and formation of personal beliefs and traits), as a teacher (I too have asked your opinion, mine on writing). It seems you had a hand in everything. While expert may be a bit of a strong word, your general knowledge was broad and indepth.
I love you for your hat and suspenders. I picture me snapping them and …Aggh”! Despite your military breeding, that I did not necessarily always agree with (“Front and Centre!”), it taught me respect for my elders and authorities, at least to a certain degree. We finally got you to start using a “please” now and then though, with much effort from our army of kids.
Now I recall helping you on with your socks and can see in my mind’s eye your varicose veins; snakes or worms you called them. I picture you in your rubber boots, with a chain saw in hand, sticking out your dentures at the kids (“arrh!”) and Grandma complaining “Geordie!”
Oh you could make us laugh! I recall more images of you slapping the blunt edge of a knife into elbows, with the words “elbows off the table” or “are you tired?” Your famous pout-catchers almost always got us laughing again, despite stubborn tears. The dreaded whisker rub made us shriek every time too. I could go on and on.
Grandpa, I love you dearly and always will. I carry you with me wherever I go. You are a part of me, as you are a part of everyone you touched. I cannot even begin to paint a complete picture of you, as the colours I have available are insufficient and drab, as compared to the rainbows you left on people. The respect you earned from the world, I flaunt as a memory to you. Many will pause, as your spirit touches the wind.
To SGT George McLeod: husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather; The 23 years I have known you are not enough, but as the hurting flesh is laid to rest, your essence carries me on. May your heart be felt forever in those that pump your blood. Go well, strong warrior. Stay well.
And with that, a scotch was raised to my lips in memory of a great man. My eyes stung, as the ice clinked against my teeth, but I valiantly swallowed my sorrows along with the libation. My Grandfather had died the month before on my birthday. Teardrops littered my journal, as I paid homage to him. The hugs I needed and craved for release were over 6000 kilometres away, but there was nothing that could be done about that now. I was alone with a grief that needed to be heard by someone, but all I could do was talk to the wind. So I did.