Grieving For My Grandfather

“There is a sacredness in tears.

They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.

They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Iriving

Someone recently told me the grieving process is said to be phases, not stages, because you back and forth. Those words have stayed in my mind because that’s exactly what I feel like is going on with me. One day I am fine, the next I’m sad, and then I’m angry, and then confused, and all of that gets mixed up, and I never know what the next day is going to bring.

I don’t feel like I was robbed of time with my Grandpa Earl, but I feel that I was robbed of my time to say good-bye and to tell him how I feel about him. I stood there next to him in the hospital, with the time to say it, but with the complete denial about what could possibly happen overtaking any of my rationalle. I could have told him I loved him, but I didn’t. I was scared.

I’m choosing to write because I find it’s an easier way for me to express myself. For me to get the words and feelings out in a private way, and then publically, as to not show my physical grief. My tears will flow during this writing, and I’m sure I’ll be sobbing as well. But I’m getting everything I can down on paper, so that I can share my grief with my closest friends and family. Then I truly believe, I will be ok. I know these things take time, and time will heal this heartache, but for now, I’m using this outlet in order to help me heal.

This is my Grandpa! Earl Garnet Martin, carpener, cabinet maker, creative genius, former navy dude (I honestly have no clue what you call them….Petty officers???). My Grandpa

Born to Merlin and Blanche Martin on March 31, 1929. Younger brother to Donald and older brother to Wayne.


(Wayne, Don, and Grandpa Earl)

He met my Grandma Joyce in 1946 while skating at a local rink in Grimsby. My Grandfather love my Grandmother so much. They married January 27, 1951, and stayed together for nearly 55 years, until my Grandmother’s passing in October of 2005.

wedding day

(Wedding Day January 27, 1951)

They would have two daughters together, Debra and Joy. They raised their girls to be strong independent women. My aunt Debra is currently an editor of a newspaper in Comox Valley in British Columbia, and my mom is enjoying retirement and being an amazing Grandmother to my daughter, River.

family photo

(My mom, Grandma, Grandpa & Aunt Deb)

Christmas 1999

(Christmas 1999, Aunt Deb, Grandma, Mom, and Grandpa)

For as long as I can remember, my Grandfather has always been a huge part of my life. I was born just two days before his 51st birthday in 1980.

me and grandpa

(Grandpa Earl and I, a week after I was born, 1980)

Since then we have shared a total of 36 birthday’s together. I remember my mom apologizing to me a few years ago about never really celebrating my birthday on it’s own, but to be honest, I loved sharing my birthday with my grandfather. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

me and grandpa 02

(Me age 5, Grandpa Earl age 56…hence just the 5 & 6 on the cake)

I loved that it wasn’t just me on my birthday because I didn’t always like being the centre of attention as I got older. I actually preferred to just sit back, and let my Grandpa shine. He did. Because he’s the brightest man I know.

He always had such a funny way of doing things with me. I have so many amazing memories that I will obviously cherish, but it was Grandpa Earl who introduced me to cold canned pasta, like Alphaghetti and Zoodles. My Grandmother would go to get her hair done and do some shopping downtown, we would drop her off and go back to the house where Grandpa would have to feed me lunch. Well he wasn’t exactly a kitchen guru, so it was either him opening up a can of Zoodles, and sticking them in a bowl and giving it to me, or we would have brown sugar sandwiches. I still eat my canned pasta cold. I refuse to heat it up. YUCK!! As for the brown sugar sandwiches, I’ll pass. I don’t think I could bring myself to eat that. For those times when we waited for Grandma, I would climb into the front seat of the giant brown station wagon (aka the Bat Mobile), and sit on the middle arm rest next to Grandpa Earl and we would play “I Spy With My Little Eye…”. I think he cheated a few times. Lol!! Taking his dentures out and chasing me when I was really little, and being the only person who I would let put eye drops in my eyes whenever I had eye infections. He taught me how to spit watermelon seeds. Most of the time we’d spit in the sink, but there were those odd times, Grandma would walk behind us, and we’d turn and let her have it. She used to get so mad.

I spent a lot of time at their house. Overnights on some weekends, when mom and dad would go away for a week, New Years Eves, we spent countless Christmas eve’s and days in that house. Birthday’s, and my weekly visits to see Grandpa. My Grandmother died in that house surrounded by us. Clogging with Grandma in the spare room (aka my room, then became Grandpa’s room), playing in the barn with Grandpa, helping plant snap dragons, and when Grandpa would be working in his workshop downstairs in the basement, I’d sit on the steps until he was done with a machine, and then I would take the little brush and clean the saw dust away from his ban saw or lathe. To this day, the smell of saw dust, wood chips, all that, reminds me of Grandpa Earl. He was a very hard worker. He would do work for other people all day, five days a week, and then come home, have dinner, and then work on their house, so that my Grandmother could have that log cabin, early American looks she always wanted. I would spend Saturday nights there, and would watch hockey with Grandpa, and then run and watch The Carol Burnett show reruns, or Benny Hill (yeah not really appropriate for 5/6 year old, lol). Their house, was my home for 35 years until Grandpa sold it in 2015.

The House

He did all that work. The floors, the ceiling, installed the woodstove, tables and armours, wainscotting, the cabinets in the kitchen, the two front bay windows, the board and batton siding, the shudders. Everything. The people who moved in, tore it all out. Breaks my heart completely. I wish we could have kept the house in our family. It’s ruined now.

Grandpa Earl’s talent exceeded anyones. He was talented and creative and could make literally anything. Stairs, floors, vanities, ducks, bears, Mounties, beds, dressers, bookcases, floors, walls, coopalas, you name it, he probably made it. In 1993, he gave me one of two of my most cherished possessions; my Orca. And in the mid 2000’s (the year escapes me at this moment), he and my dad made me a four poster bed, that matched theirs, because I loved their bed so much.

Grandpas Creattions

(My Orca whale, and yes he’s wearing a Santa hat, it was Christmas, My bed,

Grandpa & Cousin Jimmy with the bear he made, Canada Goose, and the Mountie that is

now at my Brother and Brother-in-law’s trailer)

What I miss the most about Grandpa Earl was his goofiness. His way of making me laugh and smile, even when I was having a bad day. His love for my Grandmother. I’ve never seen a love like that. Reminds me of a movie because to me it was perfect. They were both so good together. They bickered, and nagged and teased each other, but their love never changed. Seeing my grandfather heartbroken after Grandma died was probably the hardest for me to see. He spent nearly ten and a half years missing her, but still loving her. That’s true love right there.

Grandpa Earl was the first person I told about being pregnant. He said he knew already, that he had suspected it. He was excited for the arrival of his first and only Great-Grandchild. I would go over there and he would ask me how I was feeling, and try and feed me chocolate, or anything really. He would get excited to see the sonogram pictures because they didn’t have that when he had children or even grandchildren. It was all knew to him. I never asked him whether or not he thought he was going to have a great-granddaughter or great-grandson. I don’t think it mattered to him. When River Joyce (named after my Grandma Joyce) was born, I hadn’t seen him that happy since before my Grandmother got sick and passed away. I was able to give her her first 14 months of life and his last 14 months of life time together. Giving him memories and stories to take with him when he left us to tell my Grandmother when they finally were together again. Those are the memories I cherish most. That I was able to make him so happy once again. He loved River so much. He would make her laugh and smile, and he would get down on the floor with her when she was in her excersaucer and play with her. Two days before he died, he was dancing to The Wiggles in my parents livingroom with River. I loved seeing his smile back, and I will miss that immensely. My Grandpa Earl, became River’s Grandpa-Great! Because he was great!!

Grandpa Great and River

Maybe those 14 months is what he was waiting for. He wanted to have a great-grandchild before letting go. I know it’s unlikely River will remember him on her own, but that’s where it becomes my job to keep these photos for her, and tell her just how much she meant to him, and how much he loved her.

Grieving is a hard process, and a timely one. One I feel maybe I haven’t allowed myself to do. I’m so tired. Tired of not sleeping well, tired of feeling guilty for not grieving the same way I did for my Grandma Joyce, confused as to why I’m not. Tired of sadness hitting me at the most inappropriate times, tired of being locked up in my mind because I don’t want to upset or scare River. Tired of the anger, and depression. Tired of the fears. Worst part is, I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. My bestie, Colleen, came over to help me with River one afternoon, just after Grandpa died, and while I was fixing River her dinner, everything was just going wrong and I was getting so frustrated and dropping things and spilling things. I eventually got so angry, that I whipped the bowl and spoon filled with mushy sweet potatoes into the sink and got it all up the wall, all over me, and River saw that. She was scared of me. She was scared of that anger. Colleen stepped in and took over while I took off to the front porch to just give myself a time-out. It had nothing to do with River, or the food, it was just everything hitting me all at once. Losing my focus, and losing my cool. I was so glad Colleen was there to catch me when I fell by just taking over with River. I think seeing her afraid of me like that, is a major reason as to why I haven’t allowed myself to let this grief out.

Grandpa Earl wasn’t a man who used the words “I Love You,” but I never questioned it. I always knew he loved me and yeah sometimes I wished he had said it but he never needed to. I still think he needed to hear me say those words to him. So many times I tried. I’d leave a visit and think, “say it, just tell him you love him.” Instead I would chicken out. I missed that last opportunity, and I will regret that. I regret not telling him that I loved him, that worshipped him, that I admired him. This is my way of getting it out in the open. That my grandfather, was silly, strong, stubborn, comforting, funny, accepting, carefree, free-spirited, laid back, daring, creative, talented, artistic, loyal, a caretaker, a rock, a storyteller. He loved Christmas. He enjoyed being around his family. He and my Grandma Joyce were my heroes. They were amazing Grandparents to both my brother and I.

moms wedding day

I take solace in knowing that he is with my Grandmother again.

Going through photos for this tribute to him, I realized that 2015’s Christmas was the Last Christmas we shared with him. I’m so glad that we took that family photo that year with the additions of Mathew, River and my brother-in-law, Rob. I hope that last Christmas for him was as good and fun as all the ones before it.

Last Christmas 2015

The last picture that was taken of Grandpa Earl, is also the first picture of him holding River. He never picked her up or held her until our last birthday and Easter together, just a few weeks before he died. Grandpa was afraid he might drop her or hurt her. I never had those fears but I trusted him to know what his limits were. I turned around and there he was, holding River, and I quickly snapped pictures. They’re a bit blurry, but I don’t care. I have those three photos, and those are treasured.

first and last

“It’ll all be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon

No matter what, losing him will not make me forget him, and his life. It will not make me forget the thirty-six birthday’s we shared together. It will not make me forget the love he had for my daughter, his great-granddaughter. It will never make me forget his support, his love, his advice, his jokes, his laugh, his smile. It will never take those thirty-six years away from me. Grandpa Earl was the best Grandfather I could ever have asked for. Thank-you Grandpa Earl Garnet Martin for being the Best Grandfather ever. I’ll always love and miss you.

March 31, 1929 to April 16, 2016


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