My Nana and Papa (part one)

I sometimes think about them and get angry at cigarettes. Yeah, I know that cigarettes didn’t actually kill them; that was ignorance and addiction, but I still blame the tobacco. Who else can I put the blame on? I can’t personally go and figure out who the bigwigs at JT International were between 1935 and the early part of this century, drive to their homes, and beat the living shit out of each and every one of them. Can I? I would love to film myself kicking the piss out of one of them, while calmly explaining that they were partly responsible for the untimely death of two of my favourite people in the world. Maybe pulling a fingernail or two out, or lock them in a vehicle with a carton of flaming smokes until they most certainly get a couple of spots on their lungs as well. I have thought long and hard about what I’d like to do to mete out the proper justice for their crimes against humanity in the name of greed, but what good would that do?

At least they aren’t the “Green Death”

Maybe I could get one of them to sit with a cancer patient for the entire term of their disease, getting to know them, care for them, and most of all, watch them. Watch them lose most of their body weight, their spirit, and their dignity. Watch them writhe in pain, lose their depth perception, and talk to people who aren’t there. I think that it would be a far more fitting punishment than the beatings, although not nearly as satisfying for me. If I thought it would help anything, I would get all “Law Abiding Citizen” on their asses, but it would be a never ending battle, and frankly, I don’t have the stones or the patience for that. I’d rather just lament on this blog, playing to your emotions and hoping that if you are a smoker, you will finally decide to quit. Don’t quit because you want to live a longer, more healthy life, or save a shitload of money. No, you should do it so that your loved ones don’t have to suffer through the agony of watching someone that they love, die a slow, painful death.

There, now that I’ve probably finished my “holier than thou” guilt trip, I’d like to tell you about my Nana and Papa. Nan was born in 1925, and Papa in 1934 in Rochester NY, and came to Cobourg on one of the ferries that used to run across the lake. They came across as kids, and didn’t meet each other until they were adults. I’m not going into a huge back story, because I really don’t know too much about their childhoods. I do remember a funny story about Nana going to her grandparents on the farm, and they had real butter. I guess all Nan had was lard to eat at home, so her and her brother would run to the basement where the butter was and eat it by the handful. I find that pretty disgusting, but I guess there would be no constipation for a few days. I also rember that Papa used to ride his bike down to the harbour, and he would dive for change that the tourists would throw in the water. It was during the war, so you did what you could to help out. I know his bike had wheels that were wound with rope because there was a rubber shortage. I also know that they were strict parents, but had softened considerably as grandparents.

No, I’m not going to reminisce about things I wasn’t around for, I’m going to tell you about the things that I was around for. I was around for a lot of cuddling, nuzzling, and spoiling. I was also there for the odd spanking, but I can’t remember them being overly hard. I remember pulling her pots and pans out of the cupboard, and beating them like a red-headed step child, and also watching her use those same pots and pans to make us some of the best meals we ever tasted. I remember her and Papa in their huge garden, rototilling, planting, and weeding; always letting us kids eat all the peas we could shell, or whatever else was ready at the time. I was there for all kinds of canning, and also for as many Friday night card games as I was allowed to go to. They had tons of those Wade figurines from the boxes of tea, and great bags of buttons and seashells. There was also a Hi-Fi in the living room, and some of my uncle’s old records to play on it. Oh yeah, how could I forget… CABLE TV? Every channel, crystal clear reception, all the time. That was simply astonishing for me, seeing as I was from the country.

There were all of these, and so much more

As I got older I came to rely on them for almost everything. Probably since I started going to high school in town, anyways. They were my ticket to not have to bum rides all the time, and to always being able to get a good, homecooked meal. As I reached my adult years, I spent a lot of time there, and really enjoyed hanging out with them. Even my friends enjoyed having a few drinks with Nan after Papa died. She was always up for the challenge of teaching us young guys how to drink properly, and by properly I mean a lot. She lost a lot of her spark after cancer took Papa, and she never fully recovered from that. How could you? That’s someone you did everything with for most of your life, and now they’re gone. She started trying to do things to keep her mind off of it, but none of it worked. I know it didn’t, because I would hear her talking to him, and holding conversations for several minutes. It was heartbreaking to witness, and I hope I never go through it. I actually know I won’t, because I’m only going to live for two days after Mrs. Birdman kicks off, we have already discussed it. None of this “living with a broken heart” bullshit for us thanks.

I hate graveyards and old pawn shops, lord they always bring me tears,


(part two, coming soon)

11 thoughts on “My Nana and Papa (part one)

  1. I have many of the same type of memories of my Nanny and Grandad.
    My Nanny passed away when I was around 6/7 and I didn’t cry for some reason.
    It’s been hard to cry since then too…
    My Nanny and Grandad had a small house with huge property here in town ( Ptbo ).
    My Grandad was always out taking care of it and bring in what was ready and my Nanny would take over from there and cook amazing things.
    She canned, preserved, did whatever she did to make what the made in garden, last as long as they could.
    They both were smokers and Grandad had a cigarette machine that he made their cigarettes with. I used to watch with amazement when he did this…..
    I must have picked up at an early age on how to garden and be able to fix just about anything…My two boys have that same type of thinking within them too ( they are both old souls ).
    I think of them both a lot since I bought my house as it’s over 100 years old and we have a large garden in the backyard…
    Grandad lived until he was in his 90’s – he quit smoking around 80, I think.
    They inspire me to inspire others to live a simpler, happier life.
    I guess that’s why I called my business Living Better as we could all be living better….
    They also had the tea figurines like you show above and that pic stirred up fond memories too.
    Grandad had an old wooden shed that smelled of damp wood and oil that he would fix just about anything in….used to do his own oil changes. He would empty the old oil, keep it and under coat his car with it for the winter.
    It WAS Quaker-state after-all..
    Creaky old pull out couches remind me of their place.
    Watching wrestling, Woody Woodpecker, The Commander Tom Show, Bugs Bunny and Roller-derby on Saturday mornings remind me of their place.
    Fruit cocktail in the can remind me of their place.
    Shrimp cocktail in the glass cup remind me of their place.
    Having marshmallow roasts by candlelight remind me of their place.
    The velour pillow with sequined Niagara Falls reminds me of their place.

    Thanks for the memory trip on a Friday morning Birdman.

    • Thanks for remembering for us. I would need a whole site to remember everything, but as I do, I’m going to keep adding to this. Hence the part one. I was fortunate as a child to have great grandparents, and my Grandma on my Dad’s side was no exception. I plan on writing a lot about her too. She was a remarkable lady. Again, thanks for your participation and support. I always look forward to your comments, as they are sometimes serious, sometimes funny, but always thoughtful and inspiring.

  2. You and your sisters have been blessed to have had such wonderful grandparents. Both Hazel and my Mom & Dad added to the great morals you all have and the hard working attitudes. There is much more to life than money. Thanks for writing about them. I also was blessed with wonderful grandparents. I think we learn so much from our fun lessons with such loving people.

    • I think that you should write a blog post about your grandparents. I love hearing those stories. You are right about us learning from them though. We were raised by some amazing people. Love you Mom

  3. I lost my Grandma Carnell this summer. She was 95. Or would have been at Christmas time. That was her birthday.

    I remember going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The old one. It was heated with a wood stove. Amazing meals came off that stove. Heating snow water to have a bath in a tin tub with a couple of cousins.

    Sleeping in the attic in the old bed. There were always 4 or 5 of us little ones in there. And you hoped to get the middle of the bed because it was the warmest.

    After they torn down the old house, they moved a trailer the lot. Still loved going to visit. Grandma would HAVE to make us oatmeal for breakfast. And Grandpa taught us how to make toasted oatmeal sandwiches. Sounds gross I know, but they were really good. And we had to save the crusts so Grandpa could feed his birds.

    Everytime I go to bed, I think of Grandma. I have a quilt she made that is older then I am on my bed.

    And everytime I smell Wrigleys spearmenint gum, I think of Grandpa.

    Everytime I look in the mirror, I see them both.

    Thank you Birdman. For sharing.

    • I love hearing about other people’s memories. Thanks for letting us in on some of yours. I love when you comment on posts, because you are always so honest and funny. I can’t wait to see you in June. Party on

  4. I didnt know there was anyone in the world who hated tobacco companies as much as I do. Lost my Mom to C.O.P.D just 17 days ago, It was terrible watching her suffer for the last 5 years. I wouldnt wish that on anybody. People who smoke, not only need to think about their own health, but what happens when their health fails because of smoking, and who will need to take time out of their own day, every day, to care for them when they cant dress themselves without being able to breathe. Im glad she is no longer suffering, but I will always hate the tobacco company and their evil product. ok 🙂 rant over!

    I remember those little ornament that came in the tea! Thanks for reminding me! I would give almost anything to have my grandparents back for a day! Just to talk to them and hear their stories!

    • I’m sorry about your mom’s suffering, and for your loss. I really do hate the tobacco companies, because they know what their product is doing, and they not only ignore it, they cover it up. That, to me, is despicable. Anyhow, maybe if I win the lottery, I’ll invent a way to bring people together with their grandparents. I think it would cost a lot of money. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth.

  5. thanks for sharing. I too had wonderful grandparents. Actually grew up less that a mile from my paternal grandparents and saw them every day unless either of us were on holidays, until my parents divorced.
    Some of my memories include: unconditional love, freshly baked treats of some sort on every visit, my Grandma canned everything in site and made the most awesome 7 day pickles nad hotdog relish, Grandpa loved to golf and always had one of those bucket hats on and a cigar in his mouth until he had a heart attack and had to quit. He died at around the age of 70 adn Grandma lived another 25 years on her own. She had the uncanny ability to make every one of her 12 grandchildren feel like they were her favourite and I too miss her every day. Still catch myself when I drive near her place thinking to myself-I should stop in and see Grandma.

    • Thank you Patti. I will catch myself every once in a while starting to dial Nan’s number. I used to call her whenever I could, and ask about how to cook things. It was usually just an excuse, but it wasn’t because I needed one. 🙂 I appreciate the share, and the fact that you are still reading. Thanks.

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