Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fergussons

I've been spending my time searching for old photo albums. One of my finds was this picture taken in Canada in 1973. This image produced an explosion of memories about my grandparents.

My grandfather passed away in 1998 from complications due to lung cancer. He once told me that he had smoked since he was 16 and didn't stop until he was in his 70's. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in the late 90's. She may have had it before 1999 but my grandfather kept it pretty well hidden from the rest of the family. Mind you, that generation learned to keep immediate family issues hush. When my grandfather died, we found out pretty fast about grandma's condition and placed her in an assisted care facility. It was when their house was being sold that my mom obtained personal belongings from my grandmother. This is the first time I've ever seen these albums. It's brought laughter and a lot of sadness to realize they are not here with us anymore.

One album in particular caught my attention. A simple trip to Canada in 1973. My grandfather was born in Albany Canada and later moved to the US. They meant everything to each other. Married in 1970 (my grandfather divorced from a previous marriage, and my grandmother a widow) they appeared to be inseparable. He was the only grandfather I knew. My own grandfather died a year before I was born, taken by leukemia in his late 40's.

My grandfather always spoke his mind with the usual catch phrase at the end, "are ya with me?" He may have seemed like he was annoyed by my lack of planning, but you knew he was telling you because he cared.

My grandmother was very simple, almost unaware of what's going on in the world. She definitely was from the "man takes care of everything" generation. With her big silver wig, sharp features and those cool Ray-Ban "cat eye" sunglasses (back in the 60's and early 70's), she was always dressed to the 9's for every occasion.

I have cousins, grandchildren from my grandfather's previous marriage. They all lived in Seattle, Washington at the time. When I was 12 or 13, my grandparents invited me to fly up and visit. I never grew up with any brothers or sisters so visiting my cousins was like the best thing ever. I loved being with my cousins, they were never thought of as step family. Some of my best vacation memories are with my cousins.

During the flight, I remember grandpa putting on the disposable earphones (you'd plug into your armrest and there was a dial to select preset stations), turning the station to his favorite Lawrence Welk music. Grandpa stuck his nose in the air, swaying back and forth in his seat while snapping his fingers to the beat. Of course I couldn't hear the music, but I could tell what he was listening to. I used to get stuck watching The Lawrence Welk Show whenever I'd spend the night at their house. I'd usually just lay on the floor and pet their golden labrador, Candy.

They had a place down in Corona Del Mar, a beach getaway. I'd spend the weekend with them every so often. Around 5:00 PM, we'd leave to go to a place called The Quiet Woman. Grandpa would joke around and say, "Okay Dave, let's go to the Headless Woman. Grandma would quickly correct grandpa and say, "The QUIET Woman Alec,...the QUIET Woman". I've shared that story with my own daughters and every once in awhile I'll take Pacific Coast Highway through Corona Del Mar on my way to Laguna Beach, and point out The Quiet Woman to everybody. Of course everybody in the car responds, "The Quiet Woman Alec, The Quiet Woman".

A favorite dish that was served on weekend visits at the beach house would be barbecued swordfish. It was sooooo good. In fact, after finding these pictures of my grandparents, I decided to extend grandpa's summer tradition of occasionally serving swordfish to my family and friends. I know I'll think of my grandparents every time I grill it up. I miss them very much. I miss grandpa's wisdom. There have been so many times I wanted to call him up and ask his opinion or advice regarding something. I miss watching him build things in his garage at the beach; clocks, airplanes, and other around the house repairs. At the time, you never picture life without them...are ya with me?


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