I was only four years old in the spring of 1937 and didn’t understand what a funeral was, but I did know everyone was going except me. I was to stay at Grandma’s farm near Birch River, Manitoba, with two ladies who were preparing lunch.
When everyone had left I went looking for my grandfather, William Bradford. He had been sick all winter and usually lay on the living room couch.
But he wasn’t there nor in his bedroom. When I saw him leaning against the railing on the veranda I ran outside and stared at him. He didn’t look old and pale and shaky anymore. Instead of the familiar pajamas he wore a suit.
“Aren’t you sick anymore, Grandpa?” I asked.
“No, sweetie. Fact is, I feel very well!” He smiled. “Want to walk?” Strolling through the barnyard we talked about the chicks and calves. We both laughed when the white mare nuzzled my hair.
Suddenly Grandpa grew serious. “You like being here on the farm with Grandma, don’t you?” “Oh, yes! I replied. “I wish we could stay but Aunt Edith says we have to go home soon.” (My parents were divorced and I lived with my aunt.)
Grandpa nodded thoughtfully. “Sweetie, I have to go away. Everyone else will leave soon and Grandma will be alone. Now think carefully. Would you rather go home with Aunt Edith or stay with Grandma?” “I’d rather stay with Grandma, ” I answered quickly. “Your cousins will be gone . There’ll be no one to play with,” he cautioned. “There’s the kittens and the dog,” I said.
“It’s all arranged then. If anyone tries to take you away, make a fuss!” He winked- and I giggled. Usually when I made a fuss, Grandpa said, “That’s enough!” We went back to the house and Grandpa said he was going to the funeral and walked down the lane.
When the family returned I tried to tell them about what Grandpa had said but I was told to hush. Grandma heard me, though, and called me aside later.
When I had told my story, she smiled. “Don’t tell anyone else about this. They wouldn’t understand. And don’t tell anyone this either- your mother and Aunt Edith don’t know it yet but you will be staying with me!”
A few days later Grandma and I waved goodbye to the last of the relatives and that was the start of our many happy years together. The incident of my talk with Grandpa on the day of the funeral was never discussed until I was about fifteen years old and Grandma asked if I remembered it. I did, of course, and I asked if she had believed me.
“Yes” she said, “because you see, early that morning your grandfather appeared at my bedside. He told me I should stay on the farm and keep you with me. There would be strong family opposition to both ideas, he said, but I was not to give in, for this would be best for both of us,” And that is how my grandfather, on the day of his own funeral, arranged our future. Grandmother and I believe it was a fine arrangement.
Marlene J. Porter
Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada