Some of my earliest memories in life happened at my maternal grandparent's house. The maroon-coloured bi-level home was located in Saint Boniface, Winnipeg's main French district. My mother's family had moved there years earlier after relocating from the Quebec interior. They were French to the core, with the language being the only tongue spoken. I remember entertaining myself as they conversed, wandering about the house while "playing" with my imaginary friends. My earliest memory, in fact, is of finding a toy dinosaur (brontosaurus) while exploring their unfinished basement. I don't know why this particular recollection has stayed with me all these years but it remains as vivid as yesterday.
I also recall the decor of the home being quite lavish to my childhood eyes, with everything perfectly, painstakingly colour coordinated. Everything in the bathroom, including tub, sink and tile, was a light pink akin to Pepto Bismol. The living room was various shades of dark green with the carpet resembling moss growing beneath my feet. It was in this space that I recall my first taste of beer as two of my cousins dared each other to sneakily take a sip from my grandfather's stein. I joined in. It was repulsive to my childhood self, and, admittedly, still is today. Between taste and touch and sight, this home and the colourful people within it slowly set the path for me to become the woman I am today.
As a result of family turmoil and the unravelling of their nuclear unit, I lost touch with my grandfather for many years. Decades. The last I saw him was at my father's funeral in 2014. He had seen the obituary in the local newspaper and used the day to extend an olive branch towards my mother. During a day of much sadness, the reunion was a positive highlight. A reminder that forgiveness and love are pivotal in human wellbeing.
This past Sunday, I learned from my mother that my grandfather had passed away at the age of ninety-one. It was a long life filled with more hardship than he deserved to carry but he also left a long legacy of which I am proud to have a part in.
May he rest in peace.