I have a strong name. Susan avoided the “Jennifers” and “Julies” in my era, and harkens back to my Grandpa’s nickname for my mom: Sooz. (her name is Janet Elizabeth, and nobody remembers why my Grandpa called her that. Weird). My middle name is Leslie – spelled in the male form – as I was named for my Grandpa Albert Leslie (the same one who calls my mom Sooz), although he goes by Les. And ****** was my father’s name, a reminder of him, and his parents and my Norwegian ancestors. I like my name, I like the history of my name and I am proud of the people I am named for.
This story is about my Grandpa Les. He was born in on June 20th, 1914. He had 2 children (my mom is one of them) and remarried after the death of his first wife to gain 2 more. When I was a child, my parents had moved away from their home town of Vancouver, and we lived about 10 hours away their parents. My mom made sure that my brother and I had a good and solid relationship with all four of our grandparents. We called about every report card, good test, new bike, new rock for our collection, whatever and whenever we wanted (And this is before Sprint revolutionized Canadian long distance with their $20 monthly flat rate. . .) So, growing up, I knew my grandpa. He hates flying, so he would drive every summer to visit always stopping in Creston (one of the cities in BC with many many orchards) to bring my mom fresh cherries. We spent many Christmases in Vancouver staying at my his home and when I went to university in Victoria, occasionally I took the ferry over to stay with Grandpa Les and Grandma Agnes.
My grandpa is one of the strongest yet kind people I know. He loves despite loss, he believes that everyone deserves the same respect and I remember too clearly lessons that he taught me in a way that only grandparents can. Grandpa has passed these traits to his children and I hope that I too have these. Grandpa has always been proud that he can take care of himself and his family – with emotional, physical and financial support. When my mom had surgery several years ago, my 90 year old grandpa got on a plane (despite his fear of flying) to take care of her for a week. Getting down on his knees to rub her legs during her recovery. He has driven himself to the hospital when he broke his wrist (after laying on his stomach in a foot of water to unplug the drain in his driveway with his other arm). When my uncle needed some help, my 94 year old grandpa figured out the bus/skytrain route and headed over to help with the backyard chores – after all he had just given up his driver’s licence a year or two before! He also decided to pay for my uncle’s new roof – and to be fair, my mom got one too whether she needed it or not! When my grandma Agnes was fighting Alzheimer’s, he helped her bake her famous sugar cookies with white icing so they could send a care package to me in university. I loved every one of those slightly misshapened cookies.
I am flying to Vancouver next week to visit him. I used to visit him in his house, then his condo, and now at his retirement residence. (he insisted I take the bed last year, while he slept on the floor in the living on a blow up mattress. Yes, seriously, I displaced my 96 year over grandfather from his bed. I am that kind of person). Our roles have changed, I no longer sit in his lap trying to grab the toothpick out of his mouth, or wait eagerly for him to give me $20 when he departed. My grandpa is an old man now, and he struggles to do what he could do easily just a year or two ago. He has graduated from a cane to a walker, has hearing aids, eyeglasses that don’t totally work any longer, walks slowly, forgets the words he wants for a story. So it is easy not recognize the man I know as my grandpa, but he is still there. I see flashes of that man all the time. I see him in the way he ALWAYS answers the phone “WELLLLLLL Susan!!!”, and every birthday card signed by “The Ol’ Fart”. We’ll not do too much, perhaps watch his beloved Canucks, join in the Friday night residence crib tournament, and have several meals together.
I may have a strong name, but I am not strong in the face of bugs. I don’t find them miraculous, or marvellous, and the thought of spiders, bugs or anything being around me makes me uncomfortable. The Lower Mainland (for those of you in the Ontario that is like saying the GTA but for the Vancouver general area. Come one people, travel! See the world!), has a bed bug problem. Didn’t you know that? Well, apparently they do. At least that is what my mom called to tell me yesterday. Immediately, I has visions of my luggage crawling with bedbugs and bringing them home with me to infest my house. A couple suites at the my grandpa’s retirement residence have an infestation, including my grandpa’s. It has nothing to do about cleanliness, but simply easy to pass through a building that all the residents eat, sleep and recreate in. However, this was horrifying to him! His granddaughter (I would dare say favourite granddaughter, although my cousin Michelle may have something to say about that), is coming to visit and he has an infested suite. He called my mom in a panic, what else could he do? He had already called in my uncle to help him vacuum and put down repellent, washed ALL of his clothes and sheets (that must have been an event in the laundry room). He booked a fumigator with the residence management. But it wasn’t enough. He decided that he needed to book the “visitor” suite for me, he was going to pay for it, and he doesn’t want to hear anything about that.. That’s just the way it is going to be.
Did I mention I am proud to be Leslie?
February 15th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event: Knowing once again that my Grandpa Les will take care of me and all of the others he loves regardless any obstacles in his way.