Memories of my Grandpa
This Sunday, March 6th, marks the 10-year anniversary of my grandpa Qayum’s passing meaning it’s been a decade since he left us in 2012. Not long after he passed away, my grandmother died in May, leaving my mom suddenly without either of her parents. I think about my grandparents often because they were so integral to our lives. I feel fortunate to have grown up only a short drive away from them and their home in the community of Lake Bonavista, and I appreciate how much they actively participated in my upbringing. My grandparents and their home represented many different things to me — a place for family gatherings and celebrations, an escape from my parents in times of conflict, a space where we were spoiled immensely, and a place where I came to understand my family and my place within it.
I turned 21 between their deaths, and despite my age, I still had sleep-overs at my grandparents’ house because I loved spending time with them both just as much as when I was a child. I’m fortunate that I still have both my mom and my childhood home in my life, and I also have the privilege of knowing that if I ever fall on hard times, I have that place to fall back on as a safety net. I’m not sure whether other people conceptualize their parents and/or childhood home in this same way, but it saddens me that my mom doesn’t have that anymore. She hasn’t had that for ten years, and I struggle to imagine just how hard that must be for her or anyone else who loses their parents.
I do my best to incorporate respect and recognition for my grandparents into my everyday life, and those who know me well will understand just how much of my own living space is a tribute to their home in Bonavista. Either way, I still wanted to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of my grandpa’s passing by writing about the many things I remember and miss about him. I will do the same for grandma when it’s her turn.
- I think I learned my love of mornings from my grandpa. He was always the first one to rise, and I’ll always remember waking up in the morning to the sound of him on the phone in his office talking to family back home in Pakistan, in Germany, or Los Angeles. Either that, or he would be outside tending to his garden;
- We would have breakfast together at their kitchen table while my grandma was still fast asleep, and there was almost always fresh fruit already cut up and/or peeled — especially mangoes;
- The rose bushes in his garden, with a particular fondness for yellow roses;
- Playing table tennis together, with him still able to defeat both Bryce and I despite his age, and the contraption he built for himself to retrieve the balls because of his bad back;
- He would always go to bed earlier than grandma, and I remember joining him to watch movies in bed until he would fall asleep — especially old classic films like Roman Holiday, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and older James Bond films (which I know he only watched for the women);
- Going on family vacations to Mexico and his enthusiasm for warm tropical rainstorms, he would cover the tiled balcony floor with dish soap for Bryce and I to slip & slide across it;
- His infinite stash of bulk hard candies from Superstore and Maria tea biscuits;
- Playing with Putt-putt steamboats in the bathtub when I was young;
- He would sneakily put $20 bills into Bryce and my jacket pockets while they were hanging in the front closet so that our mom and grandma wouldn’t see him giving us money;
- His strange practical jokes — pretending to eat mouse droppings which were just cardamom, and making his mouth foam with Eno sweet-salts (antacid powder);
- Learning to drive with him in the Volkswagen Golf he won in some radio contest;
- Going with him to northeast Calgary (and occasionally skipping classes) to eat at his favourite Pakistani restaurants;
- He would order these strange pizza topping combinations from the Little Caesars near their house, and then I think he would customize them further after bringing the pizza home;
- Learning the basics of cooking with him when I was young and he would let me invent new soups with whatever random ingredients I wanted to include;
- His signature whistle he always did to get someone’s attention which I have intentionally incorporated into my own mannerisms;
- Putting the sprinkler under the trampoline in our backyard in the heat of mid-summer, and spending time in the backyard together.
There’s plenty more I could list, and probably millions I can’t quite remember, but it’s been a heartwarming exercise to re-engage with these memories from my past as a way to honour someone who is still incredibly present in my life despite their absence. I wish so badly that Maeghan (and others) could have had the chance to meet both him and my grandma, but I hope that their influence shines through in the way I behave and think about the world.
I love you grandpa.