Grandma Ottawa

1966, Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps, photo taken by my grandpa
1966, Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps, photos taken by my grandpa

When I was a wee little kidlet, I was convinced that my grandmother was actually the queen of England and it was a secret I had to keep (along with the non-existence of Santa and God). The evidence…

  1. My grandmother’s name was Elizabeth; ditto, the Queen’s.
  2. She lived in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada, and heads of state live in capitals.
  3. She is British, born, bred, accent and all.
  4. She was ballpark the same age.
  5. Her birthday is on Victoria Day weekend, aka the time we celebrate the Queen’s birthday (though why we celebrate an old queen’s and not the present queen’s birthday I still haven’t sorted out).
  6. It was ‘fancy’ at my grandmother’s house & you had to use your knife and fork properly & be as polite as possible.
  7. She corrected you on your grammar (and to this day I strike out the “of” from “off of,” despite it now being commonplace to add the totally unnecessary preposition).

Undeniably she was the Queen of England!

1966, in Gatineau
1966, in Gatineau

In addition to her secret status as monarch, she was a schoolteacher who worked with deaf children, she read magazines in French to keep up her language skills, she learned to speak Polish (my grandpa was Polish) and participated in the Catholic church activities (despite her lack of religiousity, and his), she painted and sunbathed and was stylish and could be incredibly silly when the mood struck her. When she was a little girl in England, she rode a horse called Ginger. It doesn’t get much better than that. There are mannerisms of hers that I see my mother do, that I catch myself doing.

My mum & grandma, being rad.
My mum & grandma, being rad.

She was very, very old when she died last year, and her life had become not much of a life at all — her wits and wit long gone. So, for me, it felt like more of a relief than a loss when she died. But, as it turns out, grief comes whenever it pleases — months and months later, on what would have been her 95th birthday. She was my last living grandparent. She was a force.


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