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If You Were Still Here

If you were still here I would tell you…

I would tell you about the memories that stay with me from when I was a little girl.

When you and Grandpa moved to Montreal I wanted to visit you every week end. On one such visit I remember pouring over a drawing and trying to write a story. I was only 3 at the time. I walked into the living room and asked you and Grandpa how to spell yellow. I sat and watched as you spoke to each other in French and tried to sound out yellow in English.

You both worked so hard and I knew you wanted to figure it out for me.

I wouldn’t have known the difference if you told me something wrong. Maybe you did. But I skipped back to the room repeating the letters in my mind that you had both pieced together. I wish I still had that paper.

I remember waking up in your home in Gaspé and smelling the delicious scent of your homemade bread tempting me out of bed. And when I got a little older I earned the privilege of having coffee with my bread, putting as much Carnation milk in as I could when you weren’t looking.

When I was a teenager, in that same kitchen, I asked you to show me how to make bread. You made me scrub my hands before you let me touch anything. Then you set off speedily pouring flour, pinching salt, proofing yeast…all by sight and memory. No recipe card or book by your side. I tried to keep up to you, continually asking how much is that? What would that be in cups? tablespoons?

You couldn’t answer. Just abouts, and handfuls and half a bowl.

I never mastered your bread which made it all the more delicious and treasured each time I ate it.

I did manage to recreate your tourtière.

When I moved to BC and began my own family I missed you all so much at Christmas. Memories of the whole family together at your home on Christmas Eve sharing laughs and stories and of course your tourtière made the distance between us real.

Despite knowing that I was going to have to interpret your ingrained measurement system, I called you one Christmas determined to create a similar Dee family experience for my little family. I remember how pleased you were that I was going to make the pies.

I worked for a whole day making dough, boiling and shredding meat, mashing potatoes and thinking of you the whole time. I thought of how many times you had spent your days cooking and baking. Everything from memory and everything homemade. All to feed your ten children and whoever happened to stop by that night because your door was always open.

You will be with us every holiday season as we enjoy your tourtière and share times with friends and family on Christmas Eve.

I would tell you what it meant to me that you gave me your wedding ring. At the time I was too speechless. It will forever be by my bedside; too small to fit my fingers.

I would make sure you knew that I loved the stories you told me about my dad every time I talked to you on our Sunday phone calls. I knew you wanted me to have them to remember him by. It meant so much to me that even though he was your son in law, you embraced him like he was your own. Even in the hard times.

I would share how sweet I thought you were when we were last together this summer. Sitting on the side of your hospital bed, you looking so frail, I told you how much I look up to you and that I have always wanted to be as strong as you. I told you that your were my hero. And your reply?

“Oh ya?”

Like you couldn’t believe that someone would look up to you.

How could we not?

You lit up every room you were in with your humour. You took care of everyone around you because you genuinely cared about them. You amazed us with your strength and determination. You were loved by everyone that met you.

I have heard you called so many names over the years…Mrs. Dee, Mrs. Raymond, Odina, Diana, all depending on who was talking to you and their relationship to you.

But, you are Granny to me.

In loving memory of my beautiful Grandmother, Odina Dee. July 1915 – October 1913

One thought on “If You Were Still Here

  1. Vicki — thank you for sharing this very personal letter. Grandmothers are very special, giving us connection with the past, reminding us that our lives extend backwards as well as forwards. While my own grandmothers have been gone a long time, they are still in my thoughts especially as the days grow shorter in the fall. November has always seemed to me to be a time of remembrance.


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