Saturday, 1 October 2011

Memories of Granddad (William Huxtable Ball, 1903-1971)

These are my memories of Granddad and stories told to us by Dad.

Dad always spoke of Granddad's sharp sense of humour, love of laughter, and his love of the sea. Granddad loved to tell stories, especially funny ones. I remember the telescope in the big picture window in my grandparent's house on Nanoose Bay. Granddad could tell you the kind of ship was sailing by, what it was carrying and its registration. He would point out all the mountains and tell you about how he used to travel up and down the coast to small communities, making sure that everyone had enough gasoline and oil to keep houses warm and boats moving. He could spot the movements of whales in the bay and tell you to wait and watch for the spout of water to appear. He was faithful viewer of Coronation Street - my first memories of the show were watching it with him.

However, he never could remember my name or my sister's (our given names both begin with K, as did one of our cousins) - so we were invariably called "Miss Milligicuddy". In fact, Granddad was, by Dad's recollection, not any good at remembering names and dates. He had many friends and acquaintances named 'Joe' as he could never remember their names. Granddad messed up Dad's birth registration by giving the wrong month (later corrected) and forgetting to include "McPhee" as a middle name on the first and second trips to the registry office, which was bit of a sore point between my grandparents for a while. I suppose that he could be forgiven as Dad was quite ill at birth and very sick for the first few years of his life with asthma. Granddad was a Freemason and, like many people of his day, viewed Catholicism with distrust. When Dad attended Gonzaga University, a Jesuit college in Spokane, Washington, on a sports scholarship, Granddad was not particularly amused. I don't think that he would have like to have known that Dad often attended Mass out of respect to Father Murray, a mentor and educator.

My few memories of Granddad are from the last years of his life, when he was ill was cancer. On our visits, I can remember a frail man, who always had a smile, loved to tousle your hair, and tell you funny stories about your father growing up. Despite the state of his health, he always was a dapper man, hat jauntily perched on his head. He would insist that Dad take him, my sister and me up to the landfill in the evening so we could watch the bears rummaging around the garbage. I thought it was pretty neat to have a grandfather who had his own 'zoo' down the road. He loved it when you brought him little creatures from the beach. He would explain where and how they lived and how the tides affected all sea life. I apparently called crabs "craps" as a young child and Dad said that Granddad would ask me about my crab hunting on the beach, trying not to laugh too hard when I said "craps" (of course, he never corrected my pronunciation....). He was the director of the clam digs on the beach, showing my sister and I where to dig with our little plastic shovels. We never seemed to find many, but had a wonderful time with a grandfather that we lost too soon.

Please feel free to add your own memories or to correct any errors in my has been quite a while since Granddad and Dad passed, so my memories may have faded. It's great getting old isn't it?

Cheers, K.

No comments: