My Opa, my mom’s dad, passed away on Thursday after a well-fought battle with cancer. He was a great man, the best grandfather I could ever imagine. My favorite childhood memories are of time spent with him. He always had time for us.
He took us toobalooping, fishing, and he played soccer in his back yard every Friday night with the neighborhood kids.
I vaguely remember a song we made up about toobalooping to the tune of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.
He taught me how to play pool on the pool table in his basement. I learned to play Hearts at his kitchen table. He was hard to beat at Foosball.
He taught me how to wait tables and how to pump gas. Some of my favorite times were spent “working” with him. I made $30 in tips one summer and it was like I’d won the lottery.
He ate raw eggs on his mashed potatoes, made the best pancakes, and put loads of salt on everything. I always liked visiting him on Saturdays, because it meant Brown Bean Soup day at the cafe.
He gave greasy cheek-kisses. He always had King peppermints in his pocket and gave them to us at church.
His house is full of photos of his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends. He had a huge garden and was so generous to me with his produce.
He loved puzzles. When I was a kid, he would draw out word or picture puzzles/riddles for me on the place mats at the cafe. He could solve a Rubix cube in minutes. He had all sorts of figure-it-out-type puzzles at his house, some of them I could solve, some of them I would spend hours only attempting.
He loved Scrabble. He liked to play quickly and I could never keep up. He was so patient, though.
He sent me a birthday card every single year. He never had a problem telling us how much he loved us and how special we were to him. He bought us KFC every time he came to visit.
He had one of those spirits that never got old. The last Telkwa Barbeque I was at, about five years ago, he was helping “the seniors” make pancakes. He was 75.
He loved the Holland soccer team and had a huge orange Hup Holland flag in his entrance way.
I don’t remember a Grandparents Day at school that he did not attend. While the other grandparents were dressed in old people clothes, he was in a polo shirt, cargo pants, and runners. Everyone knew who he was and I was always proud that he was my Opa.
He loved to sing and I loved to listen to him sing. Teresa texted me last night to tell me that his answering machine had him singing the message so I called it a couple times and then voice-recorded it.
He took a trip out here for Kaylie’s spring break when we lived in Regina. It was so fun showing him around and taking him to all the places he wanted to see.
He said that, after the BC Lions, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were his favorite CFL team, so we took him to Taylor Field.
It was so fun to have him, and the girls absolutely loved spending time with him. While he was there, Liliana would let only him take her out of her car seat.
When I learned he was sick, I took the girls out to Telkwa for a visit.
It was strange to see him unwell, as he’d always been so independent, outgoing, and active.
When I got the call from my dad, I waited until the next morning to tell Kaylie about Opa’s death because I wanted her to be able to have the day to process it instead of crying herself to sleep right away. She pulled out and read a letter he’d written her a couple months ago, in response to the Christmas card/letter she’d sent him. I left her alone in her room to process things and she came out a half hour later with some words that she’d like to say at his memorial.
Kaylie, Preston, and I are leaving tomorrow morning for the 20-hour drive. After thinking through all the possible scenarios, Noah and I decided that Liliana would stay here with him, as she does not like traveling and it would be stressful to keep her quiet at a memorial that she does not understand. Noah’s still in the probation period of his job and it would just not be wise to take a whole week off already.
As much as I’m looking forward to seeing my family in a couple days, I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to someone who had such a tremendous impact on my life. I don’t like thinking about stepping into his house without his voice to say hello to. It’s such a surreal thing to think about.
Rest in peace, Opa. We love you and we miss you.