Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Final Farewell to my Grandfather

In loving memory of Steve Benjamin Peta
Born~November 5, 1918
Passed Away~March 28, 2008

Steve Peta: Farmer, Teacher, Principal, father and grandfather, was best described by his boundless generosity.

He was generous with his time, in hospitality and with his stories.

Contrasted with his generosity was a balanced, conservative attitude towards spending. He would always tell us not to waste our money on things that don't last. "Save your money!" He would say. "Put it in a bank today and it will be worth something tomorrow."

He always seemed proud of all his grandchildren. He was ambitious for them to achieve more. He constantly encouraged us and remained interested in what we were doing. He told us: "Study hard so you can get into a good school, so that you can get a good job." Supposedly this made sense merely coming from a retired school Teacher and Principal, but it somehow seemed to come from some place deeper. It was part of his character to be competitive, to strive harder and get farther than anyone would expect of him. And he would go about this in his own consistent, deliberate way.

Because we lived provinces apart, I fondly remember being visited or visiting my grandfather. When I was fourteen, I remember the giddy excitement of flying out to see my grandparents, with no parents! We visited his wheat farm, which was the most desolate landscape I had ever seen. It must be something to be able to bear it out here, I thought, watching the oil pumps eerily moving up and down. But despite farmer suicides being high in the area, presumably because it was so lonely out there, my grandfather told me about how the "chin coulee"* ghost was there to keep him company. He would see him in the mornings, sitting on the fence.

Steve was a man who, because he was generous, enjoyed the company of others. Imaginably, because he had experienced poverty to a greater degree than my generation, we were forced to appreciate what we had more through him. For example, if we were full from eating his food and wanted to throw out the leftovers, he would say "Eat some more! It's good food!"

When we got together, he was always happy to see us. He would walk up and throw his cane against a chair and shake my hand with vigour and ask: "How is Barrett doing?" picking up right where we left off.

We will always remember grandpa's antics. I remember thinking that he was tough because he did push ups into his sixties and stood over six feet tall. He demonstrated to us children the proper way to eat soup in the military: up and across! He joked that while doing target practice, someone shot his belt buckle and his pants fell down. It was lucky that I had a grandfather that I knew. If it wasn't for him tripping and breaking his wrist at just the right time (during the draft), he could have been sent to war and never returned before I had the chance to meet him...

Instead, my childhood was filled with his stories of jackrabbits, chin coulee* ghosts and the classroom.

He would make juice and call it "kickaboy juice" because its sweetness gave you a kick in your mouth. He always had a tiger tail sticking out of the gas tank of his old boat of a New Yorker. When I asked him about the odd appendage, he merely asked "What do you think is powering the engine?"

In more recent years, grandpa Peta's health was fading, though his mind was always tough. (In his mind he was always invincible) but his body was losing strength.

I think he would want us to remember him in the ripeness of life, because he always struck me as someone who was practical, who wanted people to enjoy what they had while they had it, because tomorrow it could be gone. There's an expression: Life is wasted on the living. Not so with him. He wanted everyone to use their abilities and not waste a single moment.

Steve may be gone now but he will be remembered fondly. We should be happy he lived such a rich and colourful life because he recognized it when it was there. In his letters to me, he would chronicle the changing of the seasons, the snow, the crops and the forecast for next season.

Apparently, the promise of spring was not strong enough to make a man in the winter of his life hold on for another season. May Steve Peta rest in peace.

*Although the word "coolie" has taken on the form of a pejorative racial slur today, I always thought my grandfather meant it to refer to the Asian laborers that would have worked with his father (my great grandfather) when he immigrated from Hungary to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. On separate occasions, described the racism that was present in those days, with Asians often having to perform the most dangerous jobs like laying dynamite to blast out the mountains. Sometimes they would lose their lives. I now realize that the name he had for the ghost was the chin coulee ghost, referring to the particular valleys and landscapes of the great Canadian west.

Personal Diegesis


Blogger Devil Mood said...

That's a wonderful tribute!
I really enjoyed the ghost story and the kickaboy juice heheh :)

I'm sorry you lost your grandfather but he seems to have been happy while he was around and in the end that's all that matters.

4:21 p.m.  
Blogger Chloe said...

I'm so sorry Barrett. A loss is a loss no matter how old he was and he was your grandfather. I see my son now, how much he loves his grandparents and i know how much they mean to him, so i can understand what he meant to you. xxx

2:11 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my sincere condolences.

9:24 a.m.  
Blogger {illyria} said...

my heartfelt condolences, barrett. you did a wonderful job on the tribute, and it touched me very much.

4:04 a.m.  
Blogger DW & Sarah said...

Sorry to hear that, Barrett. I don't think I ever met him, but now I feel like I have.

10:34 p.m.  
Blogger Mitzzee said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss.
That was a wonderful tribute, B. xo

3:32 p.m.  
Blogger Adorable Girlfriend said...

A wonderful tribute to a wonderful man.

I am so sorry for your loss. I too know the pain of losing a special grandparent recently and want you to know that you have us to lean on.

8:29 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:29 p.m.  

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