Third Grade/Primary year began in September 1968, just as every other had begun...
One very important event (VIP) the teachers said at the beginning of this school year was going to be repeated over and again throughout...
July 1969 was going to get us all on Earth to witness this VIP event, of course, I'm speaking of the Moon Landing... Yes, it took place for real. No, it didn't happen it was all cloak and mirrors -- you discuss this amongst yourselves. My story is not about the reality or make-believe of this event. It is more profound... going as far as to say, Spiritual...
For most of us, 1969 was the Height of The Flower Power, Mini-Skirts, Maxi Gothic/Vampire Style Black Coats, Go-Go Boots, Catsuits and the advent seeing fashion explosion that was to follow soon, the Platform shoes and the Afro Hair-Style.
Yes, the Beehive of the 50s-60s was dying fast, bouffant Hair-Style was going to be replaced by very little hairspray but loads of chemicals -- LOL! -- one Ozone-destroying chemical replaced by hundreds of Ozone-destroying chemicals -- all in the name of the dastardly fashion...
This wee girl was longing for the day that she could own her own Go-Go Boots, Hot Pants in Hot Pink and a Maxi Black Vampire-Style Coat. What did she get -- a two piece Lime Green Swimsuit along with a Dress/Shirt again in floral green -- oh the horrors -- our wee girl is born in Spring -- not at all in line with Lime Green colours, which made her look utterly sick...
Taking where we left off, after the horrible wedding, she's slowly enjoying her newly found bedroom and the spacious double bed. After the crazy Bridezilla four years of preparations, she wanted peace, quiet and to find solace in privacy...
She wanted to continue the regular learning, her newly found extra-curricular activity called Creative Writing -- just carry on with the good stuff. No! It was not to be as everyone spoke one word of regular things to be followed by a verbal diarrhoea of the upcoming Moon Mission from Apollo 11.
Talks of Buzz Aldrin, the pilot, Neil Armstrong, the Mission Commander and the rarely mentioned Michael Collins who remained aboard the main spaceship while the two first mentioned took the Eagle Module that was to land in the Sea of Tranquillity -- due date 20 July 1969...
Granted, I was excited! I had read my fair share of UFO books by then (home collection courtesy of my father) and a natural curiosity to see wee grey men popping up on the Moon surface (our natural satellite which I read popped out of molten Earth and created the Pacific basin). I may have been 8 to 9 years old by then, but my reading material was supplied by a natural curiosity acquired from reading The Atlas published by National Geographic.
Yes, I'm a Star Trekker -- 1966 going back a wee bit, had invaded our television screens -- a thirst to find out what was out there as eloquently uttered by James T Kirk -- to boldly go where no one has gone before. It created a curiosity of what was out there, just beyond the layers of O2 and what could be lurking amongst all those beautiful stars in the night skies.
Venus has always been the only planet found with the naked eyes, just there to the left, mostly, of Mother Moon. Enters into the picture, the one man, beside my father, who did not laugh at my questions, who used the Farmer's Almanac and said that the Moon was an important piece of rock that affected us all on a daily basis.
Grand-Pa, namely Joseph Arthur, always referred to as Gramps or Grand-Pa. A loving wee man who introduced this girl to the joys of Cultural Dining namely, Chinese Foods.
By age 2, I knew the pleasures of Chicken Fried Rice and a love of an entrée with a special fruity sauce that to this day is a missed delight, the EggRoll and Plum Sauce. The China Man, as he liked to be called, had made me a miniature set of chopsticks.
Gramps, was the man who always had a bag of sweeties; hemp ropes and a plank of wood to make an impromptu swing, hanged from the garage roof. A beautiful hand-made swimming pool, rectangular metal base, covered in left-over rubber material from the diving club, dug into the back garden at a diving depth of six feet to which was attached a filter and recycling pod which kept the water clear and with a constant body temperature of 98.6F
In a few words, Gramps was a Genius at DIY. Nevertheless, his knowledge of anything I asked was answered and completed with the books to support the answers to my never-ending questions.
Many a time, this man that was my Gramps, was referred as the most patient man on Earth, close to having the patience of an Angel. When, he gave you a promise -- it was a solid guarantee -- he would honour it no matter what.
Which, brings me to the title of this story -- Funeral Number 2... I had not recovered from Funeral Number 1, it may have been just a very serious grand-uncle, but a free bottle of Pepsi and having the pleasure of finding the missing words for his daily Cross-Word from a strange dictionary, was regretted daily even after 3 years.
At the beginning of 1969, celebrations rang again after Yule Time... January heralded two birthdays, the aforementioned Gramps on the 8th followed by my dear Papa on the 12th. As we chose the 10th as a middle date to celebrate both grand occasions, obviously the subject that was on everyone's lips was the upcoming Moon Landing.
As usual, since I could get so much out of the teachers at the infernal school, I turned to Gramps to see him plunge into his vast knowledge and pulling a few strings amongst his many friends to know more about the Rocket itself, the module that was going to stay in orbit with said Michael Collins and the Eagle lander.
I sat at the dinning table fascinated with every word that Gramps uttered partly in English and French. That day, he made a promise to me. As from the end of the School Year in June, I was packed daily to spend my time with Gramps until September came again.
Days passed, February's Holidays turned into March's one birthday blended with Easter -- a quarter of said Easter cake contained a miniature message of this wee girl's 9th birthday. April's rain arrived with a vengeance and washed away the winter's snow and the blossoming of the crocuses.
Followed by two intense months for myself May and June, cramming the studies to end this third year of Primary, doing as good as possible to ignore what was on all around growing intensely now, simply on a daily basis, the landing of Humans on the Moon.
One night in early July, my parents were planning a trip for two -- two weeks of recovery from 1968 crazy-intense wedding that had lasted four years -- they needed to recharge their batteries.
On their own, blissfully leaving this wee girl with a Gramps that loved her and a Grand-Mother who told her to stay out of her way. Shopping night, where they stocked up for provisions, Mother and Grand-Mother were doing the rounds of the three major Groceries Stores in the immediate area.
At the last one, I decided that I had enough and stayed on in the car, reading material from the library by the car's interior light listening to the radio's newscaster announcing that it was 8 pm and what were the current news of the day.
Suddenly, Gramps clutched his chest and rendered a sound, I've not forgotten yet. Dad yelled to me to get out and go tell Mother and Grand-Mother that he was driving to the hospital just five minutes away. I just had the time to get out, closed the car's door and Papa took off... The groceries in the cart were abandoned we jumped into a taxi and 15 minutes later arrived at hospital.
Gramps had suffered a Coronary Thrombosis at 75... it had not been fatal, he was not out of the woods yet. Critical and stable were the words I heard flying out of the mouths of nurses and doctors alike. Nothing else to be done, we couldn't see him until the next day.
Friday couldn't arrive fast enough. I woke up at the crack of dawn in anticipation of spending a few hours with Gramps. Sadly, the hospital rules took over and I was told that due to my age -- I was nine and the grand-daughter -- I had to sit in the waiting room on the first floor without a thing to read, to do or anyone to speak to.
It was made more heartbreaking when we returned home and the phone rang nearly every 15 minutes for continuous updates on Gramps' health. Meanwhile, a dire feeling plunge my heart is despair. I fretted away the night of Friday to Saturday until a few hours short of dawn, a voice shook me awake, it said: "I made you a promise that we would watch the Moon Landing together and no matter what, we will watch it together, you can count on me..."
I fell asleep, relieved of the good news. Saturday morning the bells that rang from the strange rotary phone at my Gramps' house shocked me out of a deep sleep. All I heard of the conversation was that we had to get to hospital as quickly as possible.
By the time we arrived, Gramps had departed this Earth, it was the 5th of July. Fifteen days before the Moon Landing predicted to take place on the 20th. I was devastated at the lost of a wonderful man, who along with my father made me the woman I am today... Needless to say, I dreaded the wake.
Two very long days at the funeral parlour, where the only sustenance was tea or coffee. The baby fat that was still haunting me, dropped off completely. The tears flowed until I felt that every glass or cup of liquid I ingested just fell out of my eyes...
The natural event where I would get packed away for the Summer Holidays with Gramps got cancelled effective immediately after the funeral on the 8th... I spent my days either walking around the six main block of streets, rooted myself to the television to get the news on the launch of Apollo 11.
Finally, on 16 July, alone in the house with the usual instructions of what to do in case of an emergency, I sat on the sofa by myself to watch this anticipated event.
What happened afterwards was nothing short of a miracle -- a cold breeze entered the living room where I watched and a dent appeared on the sofa next to me... Confused but without fear as no reaction came the kittens at my feet, I called out his name: "Gramps, is that you?"
No verbal reply came, but a burned out match appeared in the ashtray and the smell of apple-smoked tobacco reached my nostrils. The depression stayed on the sofa until Apollo 11 had completed its Mission and returned to Earth.
On the last day, just after the program concluded on television, a large smoke cloud appeared and I saw the outline of Gramps -- smiling, he said: "I promised you we would watch together... I kept my promise, I'll see you again, I promise, goodbye for now..."
Goodbye Grand-Pa, thank you!
Next part coming soon...