- A memoriam to a man who lived through life unknown -
“It’s easy to remember my first snowflake;” My grandfather began
“I was at a small ice rink in the park downtown Ottawa, the Rideau Canal would not be open to skaters for another 50 years.This was our first and only trip to the capital; we were so close the snow cone stand wafted into my memory. I stood so tall for five years old, holding my fathers hand, then I called him daddy though I knew he hated the idea, five years old in size two skates, the black leather and crystal sharp reflective blade have faded through the passing years though dull and rusted like the memory still standing. The air was much fresher then, the city almost a town in comparison to the pictures on T.V. Fresh, happy, momentous, clean, innocent air that day. Why I remember?
"Snowflakes are important when you’re my age, all the memories I recall are like snowflakes all completely new and extremely special, but with both if not protected they melt away and will be lost. Eventually we all lose our snowflakes” He laughed then became still
“Mine just too early. The whole of your minds melting to a large puddle nothing to separate the smell of your mothers homemade birthday cake from the sound of bicycle tires on gravel dirt roads, the face of a loved one from the moments we care not remember. Those seem to be the hardest frozen to your mind, the moments that take the longest to melt, and the ones we are left with in the end. I know I’m not making sense but you know the way.”
He paused to sip on a glass of filtered iced tea, I had heard this story many times and each it seemed to change slightly from happy to passing, always his first.
“My father was a hardworking man to understand, always worried about one thing or the other. After my mother died, I never knew her you know she died much to soon after my birth, and father remarried, never really having the same happiness he had found with my birth mother, I like to call her Mama in my memories though I never met her it always made me feel closer to her, but father remarried Lillian, the only mother I ever knew, I think he blamed me in a way for my Mama’s untimely death, and repaid all his children with the same respect. He was never absent, only preoccupied when around his children, Lillian knew his pain but became very close to all of us and even I was apart of her special care. It was a shock that day, after Fathers convention in Ottawa to be alone for the first time in my memory and sadly one of that last before his death at a very early age, you knew my father had a death very young like your fathers we are very close you and I.” He said though I did not understand.
I knew nothing of him and he of my life, though I wished in this moment I would have been paying closer attention I could have shared my secrets, found a closer link with a man I now know lived a life unknown.
“We sat on a pretty blue bench, pine or cedar very soft wood, it’s probably not there any longer, painted a thin coat of bright blue and white, I could see the grain peering through at me almost watching this moment freeze in splendor. Both of my feet were sprawled out across my daddy’s lap, the shinny new skates loosely fitted to my feet, his strong knees and dexterous hands. I fought to sit straight as each lace was tightened and perfected to my feet, ‘these skates are yours, no one else would be wearing them’ he said and in a growing family which would end with eight these words were shocking, I being the oldest and nothing sacred these were them. He quickly tied the bows and lifted me by the waist up onto his shoulders, his hands not touching but close enough they could hold if needed down my legs, shin and across the boot of my skate, I felt safe. He held on tightly with his bare hands, I could feel the pull on the blade as if he were trying to memorize this moment as well. His hands on the razor sharp silver edge of a snowflake covered skate, I remember.”
My grandfather was a tender and emotional man, smiley and lighthearted, he was a perfect man. This was my first interview of many before his death at eighty-nine, due to pain and conflict caused by his mind. He of all of us like him held strong to these realities. He knew they would eat him alive but wanted nothing more.
“That day on his shoulders above the crowd of people I felt strong. He held me with more confidence, grace and care then I would ever feel again in my life, he spun me around like a child, glee-filled, allowing me only to feel a glimmer of fear, fear is important you know to feel safe. You can only feel safe in the arms of someone you know one day will not be there; fear knew I was safe right now. He walked us; I felt a thousand feet high, toward the edge of the frozen pond, I could smell the flavor of hot brewed coffee mixed with frozen breath and cherry syrup, juicy hot dogs and my father’s cologne, it’s been over eighty years and I still get tingles like I’m up there still on his shoulders. The moment has taken over and I felt like I was center of this world, it was everything I dreamed love would be like, now I wonder if it was only a minute. I will never forget this memory” He began to cry,
“I don’t remember why, I never remember skating. My father was there but he never took me ice-skating again but as promised the skates were mine. I think my father wanted to forget; maybe it was too emotional for him. I hope he remembered. I am not crying because I loved my father, though I did, I cry because in that moment I caught a snowflake that has forever lingered in my mind, the soft wood bench, my daddy, the puckered blue snow jacket, the hot bitter taste of satisfaction and the black, shiny tightly laced skates I wore only once. Its all there” he tapped his head, he cried and I cried too for hope because I knew that that was achieved.