Monday, July 27, 2009

My Grandpa

Jim Sidebotham was born in England in 1914. During his youth, my grandpa enjoyed boxing and swimming. He married Irene and soon my mom was born. When she was eleven, the three of them moved to Canada – living in Scarborough, just on the outskirts of Toronto. My mom grew up and met my dad and soon my grandparents moved to California – I think to get away from them – LOL!!!

My grandpa worked until his retirement with Mattel – a toy company. I can remember getting lots of interesting christmas presents – my sister and I tried many new toys that weren’t yet on the market.

In 1974, my parents moved to where they are still living today – in a small rural community surrounded by lots of farming and beautiful rolling hills. This picture was taken just after the move to the new home, in the backyard. It’s funny to see the cedar hedge after it had just been planted – all those small little furry sticks in the ground. Now that hedge is over twice my height!

Because my father worked for an airline company, we got to travel at discounted rates – which was great cuz we got to fly to California to visit our grandparents at least once a year.

One story, that gets retold – time and again, is when I was left in the care of my grandpa for the afternoon, while everyone else went out shopping. I must have worn him out, cuz my grandpa had to have a nap that afternoon. When everyone came home, they found my grandpa napping and I was no where to be found. I had escaped – being tall enough to open the front door – and was taking myself for a walk to the neighbourhood ice cream stand. That’s where they found me. I’ve always been a bit of an adventurer!!!

Ha! Ha! I couldn’t stop laughing when I found this old photo. It has nothing to do with this story – I just thought it would be funny to show. I guess that my mom’s cabbage rolls weren’t very exciting – they put my right to sleep!

To continue…

Since my grandparents lived in California, they grew two lemon trees and an orange tree in their back garden. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this lemon tree and I would be spending a lot of time together, as the years rolled past.

This photo was taken about ten years later, and you can see that the lemon and orange trees have grown quite a bit. My grandpa had put me in charge of collecting all the ripe lemons, every morning, and raking the fallen leaves.

I think that these ‘chores’ were a way to keep me busy and out of mischief – if only for a few moments. You can see that I’ve really worn out my grandma. She’s even too tired to decide if she wants to strangle me or hug me – LOL!!!!

We always had fun on our vacations with my grandparents – visiting Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and the La Brea Tar Pits. Once we even traveled to the Grand Canyon. But the place that we liked to go to the most…

… was the beach, of course! This if Rhadondo Beach, about one hour south of Los Angeles. The beach went on forever.

There was a really cool pier there, with lots of shops, restaurants and boats. When I saw this photo I was thinking that if my sister still had the Michael Jackson shirt that she bought there, that it might be worth a dollar or two now.

After I had completed high school I was no longer able to get discounts on air travel so I didn’t see my grandparents that often anymore. I would look forward to our phone calls on special holidays and birthdays. Years later, my grandma passed away and then I started to think about how lonely my grandpa must be. Of course, he had many friends that he continued to socialize with, but there was no one to come home to. Because of this I started to make it a habit to phone my grandpa about once a month.

The last time I saw my grandpa was in the spring of 2002. Joanne and I were living in Nelson, British Columbia and we decided to drive to California for Jim’s 88th birthday party. My parents and sister were there, as well, so it was a nice family reunion.

After dinner, a few funny speeches and the cutting of the birthday cake it was time for karaoke. All the ladies sang silly songs about ‘boys and girls’ and would hug my grandpa and give him birthday kisses on his cheek.

My grandpa always loved to sing and so he belted out a couple of tunes for us, as well.

I, on the other hand, had never sang in public – wishes of my wife – LOL – so this was my first ever karaoke experience. I wanted to sing a song that would mean a lot to both my grandpa and myself. I sang ‘In My Life’ by the Beatles… I even hit the high notes at the end of the song.

In My Life

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more


A few years ago, my grandpa decided to sell his house and move into a retirement centre where he wouldn’t have to worry about all the many daily chores. He was having difficulties with his knees and arthritic fingers, so you can imagine that it would be crazy to think of him scrubbing floors and doing laundry. It was a cozy little place and he was enjoying himself. He joined to singing group and this made him feel like a rock star – cuz all the women there thought he was great!!!

This new change prompted me to realize that one day my grandpa would not be with us, so I started to call him about every two weeks, now. We always shared a few laughs during these times.

This spring, my grandpa had a fall. It was pretty serious. He had broken his wrist and hip. During his healing it became apparent that he would need a little more help taking care of himself, so my parents went down to move him to a different retirement centre that was more equipped for this kind of thing.

Over these last few years, I have always been optimistic about my grandpa’s ability to recover from all his health issues. This time, everyone knew that things would be very different. He was having difficulty speaking on the phone so believe it or not I stopped calling him. My parents continued to, but I had a better idea.

I started writing my grandpa letters. I would use a really large font, so that he could read it and I always inserted lots of pictures for him to see. This way, he could read the letters over and over and see photos of things that were happening in our lives. Instead of a two minute conversation – that he could forget had happened – he could read my letter anytime he wanted to hear from me. My mom told me that he really enjoyed this!

Last Monday, my mom called me and told me to call him – even if he couldn’t respond. I had to ask a nurse to hold the phone to his ear because he had become so weak. I had never had a conversation like that before. I was a little nervous. I knew that he was listening, but couldn’t respond. I pictured him beside me, looking at me with his big eyes, as I spoke. I would tell him a funny story about one of our memories and I laughed a lot. Then I would tell him how much he was loved and how everyone wanted him to be happy and not in any more pain.

Over ten minutes had passed by when the nurse took the phone away to tell me that my grandpa would soon be sleeping. She then told me that my grandpa wanted to say goodbye and she put the phone back to his ear. “I love you”, was what my grandpa said to me, the last words I would ever hear from him.

That evening I called my mom and we chatted for a while. I told her that I was always confident that grandpa would recover from anything. I told her that I now realized that I was wrong. I had become fully aware of the painful situation Jim was in and I told my mom that I would pray for him to leave our world in peace. I couldn’t stand the thoughts of him living in pain - that hurt more than the thought of him not being there anymore. That night, while sleeping and dreaming my grandpa passed away.

The next day I changed my profile picture on Facebook and I wrote, “I looked up into the morning sky and with a tear in my eye I whispered ‘Goodbye’.” I received many condolences from high school friends and other friends who I’ve never met before. One FB friend wrote me a long letter to share her story of losing a loved one. I told her about my last phone conversation with my grandpa and when she replied she ended her letter with, “Yes, Jim, your grandfather was waiting for your call.”

Another FB friend, who had recently sent me her ‘peaceflower’ chalk art on the side of her barn had told me that her previous peaceflowers had washed away during the rains, but this peaceflower artwork had stayed and survived through the rains. “I believe a higher power was involved in making our project for a greater honor your Grandpa Jim!”

I responded to this with a poem…

That is something special, indeed!
My grandpa's love for my art and me
Shines on your barnwall for the world to see

Strong enough to challenge the rain
To make his message last
If only for one more day....

It’s wonderful that we live in an age where stories can be shared and sorrows can be healed by both friends and strangers.

Grandpa Jim Sidebotham – you are loved by many and will truly be missed. I will continue to think of you, everyday, as I always have and always will. I love you.


1 comment:

Kaleen said...

Peaceman Jim...

We are so honored to be a part of
Your beautifully written story of
Your life and wonderful memories
Of your Grandpa! You pictures are
So interesting and truly a delight
to view. Thank you for sharing a
Very intimate part of your life for
All of us to see!

As always, your fb friend from USA...

Kat, Bre, and Harley