Some of the happiest memories from my childhood occurred at my grandparent’s cabin. My grandpa built it with his bare hands, from an empty field in the middle of a forest, to a home with running water and electricity.
I was only a boy, but my grandpa was the handiest man I’d ever known. A real man’s man, if there is such a type. He could fix and build anything. And my grandma, well, she didn’t have a mean bone in her body. The woman bled kindness. We called her “G.G,” as in, “great grandma” because she was great, obviously.
And every summer their cabin was home. Our home. My parents were long since divorced, and they were my father’s parents, but they treated my mother like their daughter, and she loved them like parents.
I did everything a regular kid would do there. I swam and fished in the local river; I explored the forest in every direction, in awe of its treacherous beauty; I picked fresh fruit and rode dirt bikes and horses. And sometimes, my grandpa would take me on hikes, deep into the forest. There was always an air of danger on these hikes, like I could die at any minute, but that might just be a child’s memory playing tricks on me.
But once, on one of these hikes, we came across a giant grizzly. It walked out of the brush within a few metres of us, onto the manmade path we were on. It stopped and looked at us for a long hard second. The bear was beautiful and I was too young to be scared, but I can still remember the tight grip of my grandpa’s hand on my shoulder, letting me know to stay still. Then the grizzly continued on its way.
Afterwards, my grandpa let out a big sigh and said, “ahhhh, fuckin’ christ” and looked down. He had pissed himself. We both couldn’t stop laughing all the way home.
But life’s funny, you know? The bear incident was the last summer we ever spent there. A few months later, we got a call. My grandpa had died while working on an old dilapidated car. He hadn’t properly ventilated his garage and the exhaust fumes must have knocked him out and killed him.
Story by Ian Cooney