It strikes me there is no pause button on life. It hits me rather hard actually. There is this thought that while I'm off on some big adventure or plotting the next big goal, or training towards it, that perhaps the rest of the world holds on. In my head there is this little pin I put in it all. Assumptions of a life that will be there as I left it when I return. The faces, the places, the friends and family I knew, will surely all be the same when I turn back to face them all again.
There was this little sign above the fridge at the lake in Buckhorn, at my Grandfathers cottage. It hung above a fridge from a time I hadn't known, with a pull down handle I was sure would break off some day in my haste to retrieve the flat orange pop from its insides. From a time that seemed to stand still. Like the broken clock on the wall stuck at 2:20 for as long as I can remember. Such a silly sign, on a wooden plank that read:
In Case of Fire, Lift this Flap.
It was a standard joke in my family. Now? Can I lift it now? Of course the underside always read the same words back. I used to wonder if they'd ever change. In a time of swing sets where if you pushed enough you could catch the leaves between your toes, in a time of dock sitting, of rock sitting, of eating local bakery donuts off the fork (so as too avoid getting sticky hands), I wondered if the other side of that sign would ever change.
When you're growing up, you do so with such haste. In such a rush. Devouring the world for all its opportunity and possibility. But the coming home? That one 'safe' place? It is timeless. TV too loud because he didn't hear well. Crokinole board hanging on the wall, all the red game chips duck taped to distinguish them from the black for his two colour blind granddaughters. Little night light clipped to the head board for late night reading. Old Mill Wool Blankets on the bed. The biggest tree in the middle of the back deck. Deck built around it. Learned to gut a fish on that picnic table. Never fished again. Paddled away from the shore only to realize after I got twenty feet from it I couldn't pick it out again to land safely home without him. Learned to drive a car on those back roads. Yes, my bully skills are that honed. Convinced my wonderful mother I was deserving of the same rights as any other growing child. Not that she needed convincing. Think we traveled at maybe 20km/hr for about 10 minutes before she'd called my bluff. Yes home is timeless. It is constant. It is the evergreen of my heart.
He used to put brylecream in his hair. Came in a tube. Never once saw him with grey. Hummed to himself, unaware of how loud his little tune carried. And that record player that took up half the living room. The couch that was covered exactly the way my Nan would have left it years and years ago. He'd straighten those covers before you'd even said good bye. Seems I'm not the only one that craved the time warp. Three planks on the coffee table, the toy cars slid so easily across and onto the floor, that looped carpet that tangled around my toes. It offered me depth. A place to land. And the cars too, before the Storm trooper transport ate them up. And the brylecream that made horrible tooth paste when you weren't paying attention.
My Grandfather; my mothers father, my great aunts brother... but to me... just my grandpa. A passing I am unprepared for. A life lived for some 90 years. News that sweeps me away like the dusty dirt road that stole the bottom of my tummy on the way to the cottage. My image of the timeless 'home' becomes placeless. Or perhaps well placed, in some memory. Between the frying pan that was never washed and lived in the oven, and the stale cookies in the cupboard, I am tangled up in the thought of how to remember him. All I can grip to, cling to, is that stupid sign that hung above the fridge with the pull down handle.
In Case Of Fire, Lift this Flap....
And of growing up in his shadow, his endless knowing. The kind of endless resource of "how to's" that a Grandfather should have. The slobbery kiss when I greeted him every time, the 1950's rusted patio furniture, the woodpecker door knocker, the car with the its falling down upholstery, the grapefruit spoons hiding in the drawer....
Turns out, remembering a life doesn't have to have this big epic list of amazing things. It just needs to mean something to one person. All the small things piled on top of the other change the world for the better. There is no pause to your life or anyone else's. There is no reason to need one. Live every minute with a big heart and respect, and maybe a forked donut or two.
Between tears of my loss, I have incredible gratefulness at having known my Grandfather, Grandpa "Bear". Between the memories I am left wondering if this, finally, qualifies as a a 'fire'. Can I lift the flap now mom? I wonder if it would still read the same thing on the other side....
That's how I'll remember you Grandpa...Timeless... placeless... and always there for me.
"In Case of Fire, Lift this flap...."
Which, of course we had all done any number of times, only to find on the other side;
"Not now stupid, In case of FIRE!"
If it's okay with you Grandpa, think I'll try to run 100 miles remembering you, think I'll try and change the world just a little bit at a time, taking you with me every step.