Sunday, October 30, 2011

The last of a generation

Grampy & Sprout, early October 2010
Yesterday I lost my grandfather. Stanley Bertram Jenkins was born January 9th, 1919, one of six children. His family scraped by & he didn't have his own bed, let alone his own room as a kid. He was skipped ahead in school, graduating a couple of years early & soon went to work in the mail room at Malkin's. Not too long after that, another teenager working there caught his eye. He & Marjorie Florence Steel started dating in the late 30s.
War broke out & after talking to a friend who was in the air force, my grandfather decided to volunteer for the RCAF. He reasoned that volunteering for the air force would be safer than ending up drafted to the infantry. Off he went, spending much of his time in Northern Africa as a bombardier. He saw at least half of his squadron die over the course of the war, but credits his own survival to his pilot's motto: "Better an old pilot than a bold pilot". He later had a framed print of a Lancaster, which was what he flew during the war, up in his family room. Grampy told us a lot of funny stories from those times, but generally kept the worst of what he must have experienced to himself.
While on a short leave during his service, Stanley & Marjorie married in 1943. They wouldn't actually live together until he returned home to Vancouver in 1945. They soon started a family, having my uncle David in 1946 & then twins in 1950: my mom Linda & aunt Sheila. Because he was a veteran, my grandfather's education was paid for by the government. He made a pragmatic choice to become an accountant, rather than going into medicine, which I understand he'd wanted to do when he was younger, then worked for the federal government for his entire career.
The family lived in Vancouver until the early 1960s, when they moved into a beautiful home in Victoria. I have fond memories of this house: playing on the moss-covered boulders poking out of the lawn, watching for raccoons at night, sitting in the wide windowsill in the basement, playing with wooden blocks Grampy had made on the big sundeck. After all three of his children were married off, Grampy retired. I think it was around this time that he & Nanny acquired the Maxivan that they'd drive down to Palm Springs every year. They used to drive it across the province to visit us a few times a year, when we lived in the East Kootenays. I looked forward to their visits so much as a little kid.
In the mid 80s, Stanley & Marjorie moved back to the Lower Mainland, wanting to be closer to their kids & grandchildren. My family & my aunt's family moved into the same neighbourhood as Nanny & Grampy in the 80s. I'm so thankful that I got the chance to see them so often & get to know them. Grampy used to drive me to orthodontist appointments when my mom was working & when I was looking to make a big purchase like a camera or stereo, he'd help me research which one was the best for the money.
Stanley was a very energetic person & liked to get his exercise by walking the entire West Vancouver  Seawall with Marjorie several times a week. Because they were in such great shape, it was a bit of a surprise to us when he started having heart problems. I suppose it was a testament to his fitness that the doctors thought it was safe to do a quadruple bypass surgery on an 82-year-old. That surgery was very hard on him, but it bought him ten more years with all of us.
Nanny passed away in April of this year, after a long illness that she was very quiet about until she got really sick, a few weeks before the end. It was a form of leukemia that she'd known she had for years. Grampy was heartbroken & our family was shell-shocked that Nanny was gone. When I heard that Grampy had been taken to hospital last weekend, I can't say I was surprised. He loved Nanny for over 70 years: he just wasn't the same without her. My parents, sisters, aunts & uncles, cousins & their spouses as well as the home care workers who'd been taking care of Grampy all visited him at Lion's Gate. We all had time to say goodbye. He was surrounded by people who loved him & he died peacefully.
I'm so sad that I no longer have any living grandparents. I wish Sprout could have grown up knowing Nanny & Grampy, but I know he won't remember them at all. I regret not visiting them more in the last few years & I wish we'd recorded some of their stories on video. My memories will have to do.

1 comment:

  1. beautifully put, lisa. how wonderful that he was able to hold your son in his arms, and how lovely that you have put your memories to words...


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