Tuesday, November 9, 2010

November, Remembrance

Well, November is upon us! It happened (as these things tend to do) overnight & I am not sure I am entirely happy about it!
November brings us all too close to winter, snow & ice.  In fact on Halloween I woke up to our first snow of the year!  Halloween night found me out in an awful combo of snow, mist, rain & some kind of slush, while my son rang doorbells in his desperate pursuit of candy.
Last year's fall seemed more drawn out, lush, and frankly warmer.  It has been raining, no pouring... no down pouring for days on end!  Last year the leaves stuck around longer, the sun shone brighter and this time last year, when my father came out for his first visit we even enjoyed any amazing day at the beach in Bouctouche! This week, in what might be considered a family tradition (two times makes a tradition... right??), both parents will be flying in from Ontario to Saint John for my birthday, which falls on Remembrance day.  Awaiting my father's arrival I started to write a remembrance of my Grandfather, Edwin Barlow.

I think about his at times.  I used to think of him much more, I have to admit.  But as the years go by he comes to mind less frequently but with fondness.  Big family gatherings, Christmas, the obvious occasions.  I think of him when I think of Phoenix & my father, their grandparent/grandchild relationship.  I sometimes think of him when Phoenix's hair is a golden red, remembering he too was known for his locks once upon a time.  There is one day of the year, one day that approaches that I carry him with me all day, often much of the week leading up as well... one day that is my birthday.  November 11th. Remembrance Day.
I am posting a piece here that I wrote last year, to share.

"Those of you who know me, even a little, know that Remembrance Day brings conflicting emotions to me.

A birthday, my birthday, can be a happy celebration... friends & family, cake & presents. It can be depressing, with thoughts of aging, a few unfulfilled dreams, or this year a simple missing of my girlfriends. As much as I love a good party, my birthday is bittersweet - it's a time to remember. I remember my Grandpa Ted, or Florida Grandpa as I used to differentiate him from Georgetown Grandpa. He catches my thoughts on fall days... remembrance of cable knit sweaters that smell of autumn, with a leaf or two stuck to it. Dirt under fingernails, and muddy rubber boots.

My Grandma, Florida Grandma, asked me the fall before we lost Grandpa, what kind of sweater I'd like. She felt remiss that she hadn't knit me something, since all my cousins had recently married and received crocheted blankets. I requested a cable knit sweater 'like Grandpa's' I said.

"What size," she asked.

'... made to fit him,' I responded.

I have a big cable knit sweater, knit by Grandma, fit by Grandpa (although he swore mine was nicer than his) with big brown buttons down the front. It smells like fall and it keeps me warm whenever I'm chilled.

I think of Grandpa now, not only because he was a Hong Kong Veteran and as a good Canadian I am reminded and somewhat obliged to think of the war and its soldiers on November 11th, or because Grandpa smelled of fall and was warm like that feeling you get when you come inside to a warm house from a crisp fall walk (much like my father is), but because we lost Grandpa a few short days after my 21st birthday.

Every year that goes by in my son's life I am thankful for another great year he has had, getting to know his grandpa. There seems to be some grandfather traditions that have developed, a trend I notice. Grandpa's have workshops and can fix things you would otherwise think broken and gone forever, even things you can't imagine there worth. Grandpa's get dirtier than Grandma's, but Grandma's are good at giving them hell for tracking that dirt in the house. Grandpa's tease you relentlessly and will try to steal your apple pie, birthday cake and Christmas cookies.

And Grandpa's are always happy to see you...

This year on my birthday, my dad flies out to Fredericton, New Brunswick, our new home, for his first visit since we moved here in January. His summer visit was postponed after the very un-grandpa like occurrence of a motorcycle accident he had in July. He will arrive in time for my birthday and Remembrance Day and be here to witness his grandson march with his cub troop in his first Remembrance Day Parade. Full uniform & blazing red hair like his Great-Grandpa once had. I think he will make us all proud; Mom, Grandpa and Great-Grandpa Ted."

So Thursday my parents will fly  in to spend my birthday with me, but most importantly spend time with their grandson, Phoenix.  And Phoenix will stand with his new Scout troop at the Remembrance Day service.  And I... will think about Grandpa, enjoy my boy, my parents, my family & be thankful for the time.

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