My sister asked if I agreed with her impression that we had had a very nice childhood...and I whole heartedly agreed that we had. There were ups, yes, and downs too, but on the big scoreboard, the one that rocks us to sleep at night, it was life in a small town, loved by two caring parents, nice roof, good food, and plenty of places to roam safely and alone. A Norman Rockwell spin-off.
Both sets of grandparents were interesting, intelligent caring couples as well. One set lived far away, in Ontario, the other lived above the store in Lloydminster.
They had their foibles, I mean, Grampa Ellis was a man who ate a pickled herring a day and smoked cigars! He wasn't all that cuddly..but thinking about it now, perhaps it was me who didn't want to sit on his lap because he smelled of fish and smoke! An optometrist , he lived a long life, dying at the ripe old age of 92.
His wife, my Grandma, made the best bread ever, and every Friday was home made bread night. She was struck with arthritis at an early age, and because she was unable to manage stairs easily, Grandpa had an exterior elevator installed that took them up to their gorgeous apartment above the drug store he owned. Used to love riding in that little lift! We (my sister and I) would often go and visit her, and play fish and gin rummy for hours. She told me that the reason she was so stiff and couldn't hardly bend was because she got hit by a billy goat when she was little. Maybe she did too!
When they moved from Prince Edward Island to the prairies in the early 1900's, it was because Grampa's first wife, Carrie, had pleurisy and the doctors told her she needed to get away from moist, salty, sea air. As a young bride, and mother of two little boys, they made the long trek across the country, with her sister, Addie, along to help out. Carrie died shortly after they arrived in Lashburn, Saskatchewan and Addie looked after her two little nephews and eventually married their father...who became my grandfather when Dad was born.
Tales like this are sepia in memory. I can't picture them happening today although I know that there are variations playing out throughout the world still. Families committed to helping each other, ties that bind. My grandparents tales, though, are injected with hardship and sacrifice that even now seem larger than life, with more drama and tragedy. It's highly unlikely that Carrie would have died today, and Addie's arthritis would have been much more manageable with a hip replacement or two. And Grampa certainly wouldn't be sitting around the drugstore in his leather chair, puffing on a stogie!
They were both dead before man landed on the moon. They would have been absolutely stumped if asked to analyse their carbon footprint, and the antics of the likes of Britney Spears et al would have shocked and rendered them utterly dismayed. Computers, cell phones, iPods, you name it...it all came after. Twitter, flickr, facebook, Blog - absolutely no meaning, context, nor easy explanation. We have come so tremendously far in the past 30 years that it's astonishing any one has kept up! Heart transplants, lung, liver, eyes, kidneys, even faces! All new.
They lived in harder times, tougher times – everything took more time and effort – and three generations have spent billions and billions inventing time and effort saving devices to come to this:
I sit in my home beside the river, far away from any large urban centre, listening to an individualized music track that's been downloaded from the internet, writing the next issue of my Blog on my laptop, and I just spoke to my daughter in Montreal via her cellphone, and she's sent me a picture of a display at the Atwater Market. Last night I submitted my tax return via email, that I did completely on line and I don't even have a hard copy. Earlier today I paid all my bills and read a gardening magazine with no paper to show for any of it. Amazing!
Re-reading the last paragraph, my grandparents wouldn't have a single clue what I'm talking about. ( Well, taxes, they had those). They spoke English 1960. We speak Techlish 2009. They would be speechless.