Saturday, June 30, 2007


The funeral was on Wednesday.

Just a small affair with the immediate family and friends. Afterwards we all headed back for the reception/wake.

I find it amusing that my Grandma planned the food for her own wake back in 2002. Nothing fancy, she didn't 'do' fancy. She was a very practical lady.

So I've been doing lots of thinking and reflecting through all of this.

My Grandma's world travels started when the family defected from Stalin's Russia when she was 6 in 1928. Settling in Saskatchewan that was pretty much it in terms of Global travel until she and my Grandpa retired.

Then, as she put it 'Ray came home and dropped the tickets on the table and said we're going'. My Grandpa had booked a whirlwind European holiday for them. Grandma said if they'd discussed it she never would have agreed to go (she didn't like flying either). She still had the receipt for the tour. I think it was something ridiculous like under $800 (that's Canadian funds) for the 2 of them for 7 weeks.

One of the last times I visited her before moving to Scotland we went through her photo albums and she detailed the trips they went on. Usually they were packaged tours that included all accommodation, flights, transfers and most meals. There was always a group picture taken at the evening meal. Love that 1970's fashion.

It was interesting comparing notes on places we had both been When they did London, I think she said they were only there for a few hours. They 'drove by' St Paul's Cathedral. I on the other hand stayed 9 days in London and a good portion of one afternoon was spent at the Cathedral and also climbed all the way up to the top of the dome (no need to ever do that again, my thighs still cramp at the thought).

Many of the places they visited were just that, drive bys in a bus. The odd place they did get free time where they could explore on their own. This for my Grandma was a dangerous thing as she had zero sense of direction (a family trait I'm glad NOT to have inherited). She has a great story about wandering Rome on her own trying to find the Vatican. She wrote down on a piece of paper what she thought was the hotel name but it wasn't. She got lost within the first block and getting back to the hotel involved a number of locals and a polizia none of which spoke a lick of English to help her find her way back to the hotel .

No digital photography back then so she tended to purchase postcards. But like me she was detail oriented and made notes about how much things cost, how many stairs up to their hotel room in Wurzberg, what they ate for dinner that night and she journaled.

Writing, that was a huge passion of hers. She kept a daily journal her whole life, documented her emigration experience, wrote poetry and loved to read the dictionary.

I have dabbled with poetry (mostly bad), tried my hand at a short story and started to journal when I took my first real trip to Cuba in 1998. But it wasn't until my first Europe trip to Germany that I really got all gung-ho about it. Somehow traveling by yourself for 3 weeks when you don't speak the language is a good motivator to write.

Now with my having moved across a country, continent and an ocean I have also embraced the habit of a daily journal, even if it is a public, electronic version.

I last visited my Grandma August of last year, 2 months before I moved. She understood it would probably be the last time we saw each other. She didn't want me to go (i.e. leave Oliver to drive back to Vancouver) but she thought the adventure I was about to head out on was an opportunity not to be missed.

She was right.


strugglingwriter said...

This was just a great post with a neat photograph. I'm glad you're back and I hope everything is ok.

Jamie said...

Wonderful story, Chris.
She will rest in peace...

Mellifluous Dark said...

She sounds like she was a woman with plenty of spirit. Do you have her journals?

Hope you are OK. Am glad things went well.

Colleen J said...

Hi Chris, I'm glad you were able to spend quality time with your grandma before you moved. She sounds like she was pretty cool. I've been talking every month on the phone to my great-aunt Nettie, who's 97.5 and will be 98 in December. She married for the one and only time in her 50s and they travelled to lots of different places. One of the great things we can do is talk about where she's been and where I've been and compare experiences. It's one of the small ways I can help keep her going as she's mostly blind and losing her hearing but is still very much "with it" mentally and can rattle off phone numbers, dates, birthdays, and addresses with great precision (she was an accountant).
She is the last of my grandma's siblings, so she's been a vital link to my grandma's memory.