My mom and stepdad got married during the summer of 1987. While they went on their honeymoon (which was really a cross country road trip where they went from job interview to job interview), I got to spend a few weeks up in British Columbia with my grandfather.
My grandpa was awesome. He was a pilot and had amazing stories from World War II. He also told us kids a lot of stories about The Red Baron (I know now just how untrue those stories were because The Red Baron was World War I, but my grandpa never let things like facts get in the way or entertaining his grandchildren). My grandpa was an artist, with a studio in his house where he painted and sculpted. He had a kiln and all these great glazes to paint on to ceramics. He let me make a few things that summer. He took some pictures of me and started painting my portrait. He never did finish it (he was never happy with it and kept tweaking it over the years), but I have that now. My grandpa was a story teller. In addition to the airplane stories, Grandpa would often tell us about how he was really born on Mars or something, or he would line us kids up, call us to attention, march us around the room, and yell things like, “Wipe that smile off your face!!” and then tell us to stand “at ease”. He would have us sit in a circle, then gave us Indian nicknames (mine was Princess Long Hair) and tell us more stories that always started with “Many, many moons ago…”. Even though I was the only grandkid up there that summer, he still called me Princess Long Hair, still marched me around, and still told me story after story.
That summer my grandpa took me on walks around his neighborhood. He read to me from “Around the World in 80 Days”. He took me to the library to check out books and he got picture books of zebras so he could sculpt a zebra. He taught be to fox trot and do the box step. He showed me pictures of him and of his first wife from before the war (they both looked like movie stars). He let me wander around the yard while he played bocce with his friends. He played ping pong with me in his basement. He took me to a water park (even though he didn’t swim at the park). He made sure my passport got stamped going into Canada, even though at that time I didn’t need a passport to get into Canada and they never really stamped them anyway. It was my very first passport stamp. He took me to the Okinagan Lake and let me watch for Ogo Pogo. He taught me to play the beginning of “Somewhere, My Love” from “Dr. Zhivagho” on the organ. He taught me to play chess. He played War and Crazy Eights with me for what seemed like hours on end, and even tried to teach me to shuffle a deck of cards (it never worked).
Every morning for breakfast he would have a grapefruit. I would have a bagel. I don’t remember ever having bagels before going to Grandpa’s house. This was a real treat. I wanted bagels for breakfast every morning. I wanted bagels for snacks. I wanted bagels with my lunch. I wanted bagels almost as often as I wanted a glass of milk (which, if you know me, you know that is a lot). At one point, when I asked for yet another bagel to eat, my grandpa said, “I’m going to make you a huge bagel necklace so you can just pick it up and take a bite whenever you want.” The image in my head made me giggle.
I had a bagel for breakfast this morning. It wasn’t anything special. Just a plain bagel, lightly toasted, with butter. However, whenever I eat bagels, I still think of my grandpa, how much fun we had, and just how much he loved me.