I could tell you all kinds of things about our adventures in the last five weeks. I could tell you about how we had a lovely belated Father’s Day celebration with Grandpa Leo, which included an outing to the Farmers Market, and a trike ride to O’Grady’s for lunch. I could tell you about the week you ate at O’Grady’s three times (once with Grandpa Leo, once with me, and once with Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark). I could tell you about how, even though you aren’t in school, summer vacation has presented some behavioural challenges for you. I could tell you it’s because you miss Sandy’s playgroup very much (it’s only open during the school year), and that having Robin’s older sons home during the day can be tons of fun for you but also quite overwhelming. I could tell you that you are finally sleeping without a bedrail, and you haven’t fallen out of bed in weeks. I could tell you about our fantastic visit from Aunt Heather and our trip to Sky Zone indoor trampoline park together. I could tell you that we hardly ever use the travel reducer seat when we’re out and about because in the last three weeks, we have not met a toilet into which you couldn’t pee standing up. I could tell you about how much you adore Dinosaur Train - especially the episodes about the forest fire and the drought. I could tell you about our trip to the fire station. I could tell you about your awesome sense of humour, your new love of knock-knock jokes, and your jokey-rhyming (Daddy: “Your bum is pretty raw.” You: “My bum is made of STRAW!” *peals of laughter at your own hilarity*). I could tell you about how changes at day care (a new little girl, a new routine, end of Sandy’s playgroup) meant that you suddenly developed some real separation anxiety, as well as a huge desire to test your limits (we clamped down, and things have been much better in the last week).
But instead of telling you all those things, I’m going to tell you about your Grandpa Reg.
First of all, he’s not your grandpa. If he’s anything, he’s your great-grandpa. I’ve thought of him as my grandpa for the bulk of my life. He and his first wife, Nina, with whom he was married for more than 50 years, lived next door when I was growing up. Here is something I wrote 10 years ago about my relationship with Nina. But a lot has happened since April 2003. Nina died in December of that year, and I began visiting Reg every weekend. That continued pretty much until you were born, and now you and I try and visit him twice a month. Since Nina’s death, I’ve seen Reg through many transitions. He sold the house. He moved to Belleville. He moved back to Ottawa, into Stillwater Retirement Residence. There, he met and married Joan. Joan moved to the Perley, and Reg moved to Alta Vista Manor to be closer to her. Reg moved to the Perley. In the last ten years, Reg and I have become very close, and he is an irreplaceable part of my life. It isn’t just because he’s my tie to Nina’s memory. We have been on countless adventures (outings, road trips, and a very memorable Caribbean cruise), and if I go too long without visiting him, I feel like something is missing from my life. My experience with Nina and Reg is one of the main sources of my philosophy about “chosen family,” which I am trying hard to pass on to you.
Reg has also become a very important part of your life, and the feeling is quite mutual. You are not shy to tell him that you love him, to give him hugs and kisses. You love sharing your toys and snacks with him, and telling him all kinds of things that you think he should know. You love getting a ride on his scooter - and not just because he goes fast, but because it’s something special that you share together. You are both so proud as you ride down the halls, and the other residents comment about your sweet ride. You have never not wanted to visit. In fact, there have been times when I have told you about our plans to visit the night before, and you have eagerly asked, “Can we go NOW?”
In the last year or so, Reg has declined. He is 93 years old. He’s had prostate cancer for years, he is at risk for another stroke, and in the last year, his bone marrow has become tired. We aren’t sure if cancer has invaded the marrow, or if it is simply declining, but he’s gone from having a blood transfusion once a month to every three weeks, and now, to every two weeks. He is tired and anemic, and for the first time in a long time, he’s not doing a fantastic job of hiding it.
I don’t know how much longer Reg has before his body becomes too tired and gives up. It could be months and months, or it could be less. But when we said goodbye today, he watched us walk all the way down the long hallway until we were out of sight. I know this, because I couldn’t help looking back. We blew kisses and waved.
You are only three and a half, and when Grandpa Reg dies, I don’t know how much of him you will remember. So I’m telling you this now:
He loves you, and you love him. I know this because you’ve told him so. In fact today, when he left to use the bathroom, you asked to go with him. When I said no, you said, with a note of desperation in your voice, “But I love him.” And you do, very much. (I still didn’t let you follow him to the bathroom, but he came back, as promised.)
When we get to a point that he doesn’t come back, darling, I want you to know that you have shared something very special with a truly amazing man. And that amazing man has enjoyed every moment of his time with you.