I'm very blessed to have had two grandfathers that I knew well and lived near growing up. Both, along with my grandmothers, resided less than 30 minutes from my childhood home located in Whitby, Ontario, Canada.
My mom's father, William, on the far right side in my Mom and Dad's wedding photo below, is still alive. Grandy, as my sister and I call him, is fast approaching his 100th birthday on December 11, 2011. He's an amazing, thoughtful, talented, patient and loving man. I talked to him just yesterday on the phone.
My dad's father, Augustus, on the far left side of the photo, died several years ago. He too was a beautiful soul and a wonderful man. It's on Remembrance Day that I always think of him, Pop-Pop, and everything that he meant to me as a child, young adult, and now, a husband and father. He and Grandma also had three kids: my Dad and his two younger sisters.
Pop-Pop served in World War II. He was born and grew up in Wales, UK and so served in the British Army. One of his proudest military moments was having the privilege of driving Sir Winston Churchill around in an armed forces vehicle. Sadly, while Pop-Pop returned from the war, his brother Billy died from mortal wounds on a hospital ship in Calcutta, India.
Growing up, several of Pop-Pop's war medals adorned the mantel of our family's fireplace. I looked at them often and always had questions about what they meant. As a kid, I really had no idea what war was - it was something that took place long ago and occurred no more; if only - but even as a child, I knew those medals were still of great importance.
I remember, most fondly, Pop-Pop's cheery nature and sense of humour. To me, he seemed to be always smiling and ready to crack a joke. I loved it when he'd sing songs in Welsh. He still had a moderate accent; as has been said by others, when you speak Welsh, it sounds like a song, and that's true.
As a teenager, upon greeting me at the door, Pop-Pop would predictably take my hands in his hands and turn them over, looking for calluses. If none were found, he'd ask of their whereabouts. One summer, I was particularly proud of the calluses I'd earned from weeks of working at a city maintenance job and racing mountain bikes. I was happy that day when Pop-Pop saw those.
I could go on and on here with tales about Pop-Pop, but that's not the point of this article. I simply wanted to share several memories of this great man with you; some of the same ones I have each and every Remembrance Day when I think of who he was and what he did for his country.