January 5 was a momentous day for my family. My Grandfather, James William Stott, died at 96.
My brother, sister and I have been talking over these last few days about him. There’s a connection we have with him that is unique and special.
In 1968, long before my sister and brother and I were born, long before my parents were together, there was a terrible incident on a warm October evening in the small town of Midale, Saskatchewan. My other grandfather, Eric, was found unresponsive in his home. He had finally succumbed to complications with his heart after it was weakened by rheumatic fever decades earlier when he was a child.
A panicked call went out, an ambulance was called but would take time to reach the small town. In desperation, my mother’s mother ran to their neighbours and friends for help. I can’t imagine the scene, it breaks my heart. My mother was just a young teenager, her brothers 10 and 4 years old. Their father slipping away. My father’s father ran to help — in vain he performed CPR. Eric died that day, and my parents families were forever linked with a unique bond.
Decades later I would find myself visiting my grandparents and walking around the little town with my own children — our personal family history surrounding us in a few square blocks, almost unknown and forgotten.
43 years after my Grandfather Jim tried to save my other Grandfather Eric’s life, I would stumble upon a room in a heritage building opened for a festival. A schoolhouse about one block away from where my mother and father grew up. I found stacks of books in a classroom frozen in time. I have used these books and memories as inspiration and direction for my work and will continue for years to come.
My grandfather had a difficult beginning to his long, long life. In 1932 his mother died young, his father left for the coast to find work. At 10 years old, he was left in the care of neighbours. Essentially an orphan during the roughest economic times in the past century. It’s amazing that he was able to carve out a full life after a precarious start, but I think we owe this to his remarkable wife, Kay. They were together for 73 years.
We should all be so lucky. To spend seven decades of your life with someone who respected and cared for you as much as these two did for one another. Although the last few years have been incredibly difficult, we can now focus and remember the good times. It’s what Grandpa Jim would have wanted.