Dementia had caught up with Great Grandma Louise. She had to move out of her apartment in Sarnia, Canada and go south to live with Grandma Sue. We recruited all the Anderson boys to help empty her apartment. Uncle Bill rode with me in my car while Dad drove the truck and snowmobile trailer ahead of us. Uncle Bill rode with me because since I smoked, he could smoke in my car.
We crossed the bridge into Canada from Port Huron. Instead of following behind Dad, I went to another lane. I handed over my driver’s license with no problem. The crossing guard didn’t like Uncle Bill’s ID being in his wallet. Uncle Bill fumbled trying to get his license out of its plastic prison and looked generally guilty, like he was kidnapping me or something.
Thankfully, we weren’t detained and followed Dad to Great Grandma’s apartment. When we parked, Dad got out of the truck and started giving me guff. “Why didn’t you follow me? I told the guard that my kid was in the car right behind me.” I didn’t have a good answer. I had thought using another lane would have been faster.
Compared to her place in Florida, Grandma’s apartment was clean and neat. The cats had been Grandpa Chet’s, so unlike Florida, there weren’t fleas jumping on everything. Canada is a cold-weather climate, so the apartment was also gratefully palmetto bug-free.
While she didn’t have vermin, Grandma did have stuff.
Lots of stuff.
Lots of stuff that needed to move south to Illinois.
Mom had a special place in her heart for her Grandma Louise. When Mom was a teenager and couldn’t afford Spring Break, Grandma Louise invited her to Florida for a week. It was something my mom never forgot. So when someone had to take care of Great Grandma, the onus fell on Pammy.
Packing Grandma’s stuff was no easy task. There was just so much of it. We began to debate that the giant pickup truck and 5-sled snowmobile trailer would be big enough.
Slowly we made progress.
When we moved into her bedroom, we discovered it just as crammed as the kitchen. The difference was tucked away in the back of the closet sat a white box. Eight inches cubed, the box sat in the darkness, waiting to be found.
First came out shoes, scarves, purses, dresses, real fur coats – this was back when fur was still mildly acceptable. Lonnie Anderson was still a household name. Item after item came out of that closet.
Then came the box.
It was innocuous enough looking. A white box with a label on the front. No bells and whistles. No electronics. Just a box. A box with a label that read the cremated remains of Chester K. Daibo were inside.
Great Grandpa Chet had been dead for years. Grandma Louise supposedly had spread his ashes on the family property at the reservation. Apparently, she hadn’t spread all of him.
Thus the laughter began.
Grandpa Chet was a part of the family. He wasn’t a piece of furniture to be packed into the trailer. He might have been tucked away in the closet, but we couldn’t put him in the back of the pickup truck with Grandma’s other stuff. This was Grandpa. He would ride up front with us.
So that’s what we did.
As we set out, my two younger sisters took a picture with Grandpa saying goodbye to Canada. We decided he would miss the brisk winters of his homeland, but he would be happy to be with Great Grandma Louise again.
When I was a kid, we made a yearly pilgrimage to Metropolis for the annual family reunion. It was the only time of the year that we’d eat at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. This was before they had expanded north. Nearly twenty years ago now, you couldn’t find a Cracker Barrel north of Indianapolis.
So, we took Grandpa to lunch at Cracker Barrel. He wasn’t hungry, so he waited in the car while we ate. If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel restaurant, well, you’re missing out. The front of the store is a long porch that is lined with rocking chairs. Patrons are invited to sit in the chairs. They’re quite comfortable, and every year, we were tempted to buy one to take home.
Since this was Grandpa’s last road trip, we wanted to make sure he got to experience everything. He tried out the adult rockers.
Further along the trip, we had to stop for gas. A pickup truck loaded for bear pulling a trailer sagging on its axles doesn’t get the best gas mileage. Grandpa, ever the helpful sort, was kind enough to help me pump gas while Mom and Missy went inside to use the bathroom.
Grandpa was a fun-loving guy, so while we were taking a break from the road, he used the opportunity to play some video games. He wasn’t a big gamer before, and he was not surprisingly terrible at the games he tried.
Bowling was a bust unless we helped him slide across the roller.
Good to know. Grandpa couldn’t enter the house until we were ready. Check.
Our last pit stop before reaching Metropolis had a gas station across the street from a McDonald’s. In the warmer climates, McDonald’s sometimes has a bench outside with a Ronald McDonald statue sitting on it. We don’t have these in the north because the dramatic climate changes wreak havoc on the statue’s finish. Grandpa insisted he needed pictures with Ronald. This time, we all had to get in the picture with him.
Back in the nineties, though, it wasn’t nearly as big. Outside the restaurant we had breakfast was a standup for tourists to take their picture as Superman. Of course, since this was Grandpa Chet’s last hurrah, he insisted we get his picture as Superman.
Thankfully, we were in an auto garage with lots of useful things around. We found a Mopar bag that was the right size for handling the remaining bits of Grandpa. As respectfully as we could, we tipped his ashes from one bag to another, making sure to get all the bits that had leaked into the box.