My Grandfathers

If I missed not talking about St. Patrick's Day I think both of my Poppies (grandfathers) would be chagrined. 

Neither of my grandfathers really needed a reason to drink, but it was nice to have one. In Newfoundland, St. Patrick's Day is a holiday. Although it's one of those tricky ones where they may not celebrate it on the actual day. I think this year they had Monday the 14th off in lieu. 

My mom's dad was not a large man. His accent was thick and when he drank he didn't always leave his teeth in. Before a bout with lip cancer, he chewed tobacco. None of that fancy stuff from a plastic container. Nope, he chewed apple tobacco. Which came in a block. From that block he would carve some off with his pocket knife and then (using the knife) he would tuck the plug of tobacco into his bottom lip. No matter where he was sitting in the kitchen, he would always hit the spittoon. In my head, I can still hear the ting. My Poppy Griffiths owned one suit. It was green. Given his stature, his suit, and that around-the-bay accent, I think he was the closest thing I'd ever get to a leprechaun. I still remember the smell of the tobacco, mix that with the Noxzema he always covered his nose with. These scents always make me think of him.

My Dad's dad was larger than life to me when I was small. He had a big barrel chest, thick-rimmed glasses, and the whitest teeth (which I later learned were dentures). He had the flat townie accent and gave big bear hugs. He would always make sure he had the proper (pulp-free) orange juice when I stayed with him. We would go on adventures in his big giant car, I think mostly to stay out of the way of his second wife. He would take me down to the docks where he worked for many years and show me off, then we would stop and have lunch (chips, dressing, and gravy at Leo's) and somehow always wind up either at his brother's house, or his brother would be pulling up outside of his house when we got back. Poppy and Uncle Jack would sit on stools in the kitchen, drinking diet ginger ale and Lambs' Palm Breeze rum (pronounced pam breeze). They would tell silly stories and the Newfie music would slowly get louder. Poppy Sceviour always smelled like old spice and the foam he used to shave with. 

I was supposed to write about how St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. But sometimes memories pop out and you just have to get them out. 

Both of my grandfathers were warm and loving, by the time I came around anyway. I didn't spend a lot of time with either one, given that I lived across the country for most of my life. But the time I did spend with each of them taught me many things. 

Poppy Griffiths taught me about the joys of fresh-baked bread,  eating the berries as you picked them, Reader's Digests, and sitting quietly by the ocean. He showed me that spending time on your own was a gift, and that true love never dies. 

Poppy Sceviour taught me how far you could get with a welcoming smile and a good handshake. That having music on all the time helps you think. A long drive is good for the brain, preferably with the windows down. He told me stories about the ocean taking more than it gives, and to always be in awe of it. 

I could write about the both of them for days, and maybe someday I will. For now, I think I am going to do something they both loved. I am going to sit in the sunny patch near a window and just enjoy the warmth. 

Music Corner

I was going to pick the Pogues, but I did that already. Then I thought maybe something by U2, but that seemed too easy. Then I went back to my grandfather's. Both were known for singing after a few cups, and there was one song they both seemed to prefer. Black Velvet Band. I chose the version by the Irish Rovers. 

I can't hear this song without a whack of memories of the both of them flooding back. 

It's not a merry song. Rather it's about a young man who falls in love and is tricked. At the end of the song, the lovelorn fellow is sent to Australia to serve his sentence. A warning is given to be careful or pretty women. Which is probably good advice. 

Shopping Corner

I's the B'y

Poppy's House

Rig: An Oral History of the Ocean Ranger Disaster


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