I have a vague memory of sitting at a brown table. I don’t feel well. I am drinking hot water with drops of peppermint oil. The fumes are stinging my face. I can feel a pull towards my parents, and I miss them. I am at my Grandparents home. Its interesting. It is not a normal house, but rather a large kind of shop. The main entrance is on the side of the long rectangular shaped building. When you walk in there is a hallway with chairs in it. In my memory they are metal with padded seats. Maybe they are green and silver. I am unsure. Memory fades them from view.
The front door is entirely made of glass. The kind of door you would find as you walked into a mechanic shop, or an industrial building. It was most likely very necessary to own windex because of all the glass and the metal bar in its centre.
As you walked down the hallway from the main entrance there was a doorway to the left that opened up to a large shop with a concerte floor. It was an eclectic disarray of tools, saw dust, pipes and metal work benches. On your right was a large opening with a wheelchair ramp tiled floor that stretched itself into the main living area.
Three bedrooms were located at the back. Each had a door on the left and a large window on the right. They were old offices turned into sleeping quarters. Hand sewn curtains offered the tenants privacy. Old metal framed beds took up space in each. As I stand there now in my memory I see how everything surrounding me including my grandfather was a mystery to me. There are sea shells, books, metal spoons, and silver tools polished by my Grandfather’s own hands.
I truly had an interesting Grandfather. I probably do not know him very well, yet we had a deep kin ship. He would show up in my life like a falling star lighting up short lived moments of conversation and meals at Dennys. He was strong. His hands were large. He had a white beard, bald head, shiny eyes, glasses, and he always smelled like peppermint. Not the soft kind of peppermint in shaving creams or lotions, but rather the unadulterated essential oil applied straight to skin kind. I am sure it was oozing out of his pores.
He believed peppermint oil healed everything. If you had a stomach ache He would put some drops into a cup of hot water and it would take it away. If you had a scar he would rub it over top and the healing was for sure due to the smelly oil. If you applied it to your hair it would cause it to grow.
Suspenders held up his pants over a white button up dress shirt. His pants were black. I haven’t a single memory of him wearing something else. There is evidence of it though in pictures I found on photographers website. There were very few pictures of him. He didn’t believe in pictures, and I am not sure why. Maybe he believed they stole your soul? Or he thought that they were graven images. When I asked him he just told me that he didn’t need pictures. He said he can still see his wife on the night of their marriage plain as day. His mind was his camera.
He believed in the power of massage. He would press his large fingers into your joints, and tell you firmly that you had too much acid. Don’t drink so much pop he would say. He made me smile. It may sound strange but having him touch those pressure points actually caused me to feel better. His hands were rough and hearty. They were the kind of hands you could feel proud of. I admired them so much I convinced him to let me take a picture of our hands together. He surprisingly complied.
My grandfather was a gypsy at heart. He seemed to consistently move around the North American continent leaving us in constant wonder of what he would do next. At times he would be building a pontoon boat in Florida, then off harvesting something, to hunting in the Rocky Mountains with his grandsons. Now that he is gone I realize how much I could sense him out there in the world. It strengthened me somehow. Now all I can feel his absence.
As I write, more memory’s start to surface. On one sunny day long ago he parked in front of our house with a little pickup truck pulling a trailer full of watermelons. My mind pulls up the picture of a trailer and I can see the green mounds piled high. Such sweet colours surround me in this memory. The gravel crunches under my feet from the driveway I called my home. I feel the sway of the two large trees in front. The excitement of a child flowing through me as I run out to see what treasures he has brought to us. I know they were absolutely delicious. He would cut into one with his knife and feed us. The sweetest of watermelon juice would roll down our faces. Time has taken that taste.
My grandfather was a rescuer. When I found myself in a darker times his voice resounded. One year there was a family reunion. I was to go. I didn’t. I was busy wearing the shame from my life choices so I stayed home to work. I told him I needed the money. He asked me what the date was. I told him. Then he said have you ever been alive before on this date and time? I said no. Then he responded with then how are to know exactly what to do. He had a way of thinking that reminded me that I constantly needed grace. Not because I was not valuable, but because life was a road in which we drove once. Sometimes we hit the ruts. As I had this conversation with him as I was wearing work boots, smoking a cigarette, and cleaning up a job site in a duplex. He had called me on my flip phone cell. He told me that I was his granddaughter and that I should be there. He told me I was just as important as…..he listed off the other granddaughters that I felt were more holy than me. I probably cried.
When I received the news that he had become sick and was in the hospital I went to see him. I flew to the island and whispered into his right ear the news that I was pregnant. I held his large hand as he was surrounded by his mostly Mennonite children. The contrast between the man in front of me and the view I had of his children was stark. This grandfather taught me to love myself, and told me that I had value beyond anything I could ever wear or do. This man was different. He had a grace for me that led me to God.
As I sat with him I asked him if he was in pain. His last words to me were “If you can’t handle a little pain in life.” He said it sarcastically. He really did not need to fill in the rest of the spaces that this sentence seemed to require. I felt I knew the meaning of what he was trying to portray. He was telling me to be tough.
I do not have a memory of my Grandfather dead. I said goodbye, and made the return flight home to my fiancée. I am now very thankful that in my memory he is still alive. He is still wandering, and exploring the unknown. But like any falling star inevitably does, he has faded into heaven’s horizon leaving in his wake the last bottle of peppermint oil he has ever given me. It’s here sitting on a wooden shelf waiting for me to use it. I am just not ready for it to be empty.