Sunday, October 08, 2006

a Tribute to Pop

As many of you know, my Pop passed away a few weeks ago. I think one of the most difficult things about losing a grandparent, is that people kind of fluff it off. Because they lived a long and full life, because death is a reality of life, because it was inevitable.. I think people are unconsciously dismissive when they offer their condolences. This isn't finger pointing to any of my friends, because I am lucky to have friends who really did care when they heard the news that Pop was gone. I just feel compelled to take a moment to commemorate what a great man my Pop was so that he knows that he will not be forgotten by all of us who loved and respected him.

Stewart Fuller Dec. 9, 1916 - Sept. 19, 2006

Pop with his sisters (Mary, Lillian and Doris) before leaving from England to Canada in 1921-2

Pop on leave in England during the War

Nan and Pop loved their gardens

Here is the little eulogy that I wrote for the funeral service:

"In the days since my grandfather's stroke last Sunday, our family has learned things about him that we never knew. We learned that he didn't really hate his home at White Cliffe Terrace as he would lead us to believe, even though answering the phone with "cell 122" was a pretty strong hint that he wasn't happy there. The staff at White Cliffe tell us that Pop would meet with the ladies every morning to work on puzzles together. His friend Tom tells us that he will be sorely missed and was well-liked by everyone. One of the staff members pulled me aside yesterday and told me that her favourite memory of Mr. Fuller was that there is another resident who was very protective of her flowers and made it loudly known that no one could touch them. Pop leaned over to the staff with a sneaky whisper and said: "you mean she doesn't want us to touch THESE flowers?" while giving their leaves a sharp tweak.

My Pop was known to many under different names. "Dad", "Stew", "Grandpa" and "Mr. Fuller". But to my sister and I he was Pop or Poppa. This in itself is ironic considering it is a name that lacks the formality that he would probably have preferred, but as was our relationship, we always liked to force it on him. Not an overly demonstrative man, he left Nan to do the hugs and kisses. He would scrunch up his face at talk about romance and such and would often roll his eyes at "girl talk". But I think it was all a big act. Because whenever the grandkids or great grandkids were around, his cheek always seemed to be ready for a kiss. He would pretend to be uninterested in our news and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that he might ignore us when we told him exciting updates about our lives. But again... he was fooling no one. Because all it would take was a phone call to another family member, or a conversation with someone at White Cliffe and they would say "so Stew told us your exciting news...".

We loved him for his strength. Pop suffered in a lot of pain over the years with his arthritis and many people wouldn't believe that it was possible for a person to walk with no hip - but Pop did it without a word of complaint.

We loved him for his courage. We are so proud to be related to a man who fought for our country in the Second World War. Two years ago I went to Pop's Remembrance Day celebration at White Cliffe. He had been asked to place the wreath in the memorial. He was dressed in his cap with his badges and medals. I was so proud. A woman approached Pop in tears and said something quietly to him. After we got back to his room, Pop said to me: "You know that woman who spoke to me is Jewish." -Pop was all choked up (a rare moment). He said "she thanked me for what I did for her family." My Nan kept every single letter that Pop wrote to her from overseas during that time - there are over 300 - and in reading the letters, you can hear Pop's strength and bravery. He wanted Nan to feel safe and he wanted to protect her from the fear that she must have been living in, alone with her daughter Beverley, praying he would come home safe. You can hear it in his letters how he downplayed the danger he was in. You could also clearly hear the love he had for his wife and I think that more than anything, we loved Pop for how he loved my Nanna. Those letters have offered me a glimpse of the romantic that Pop really was.

Nan and Pop were opposites in many ways - she was outgoing and talkative, he was private and conservative. But they loved each other. They set an example for us all on what a good marriage is all about. When I got married, I remember Pop offering me advice that it wouldn't be easy. That we would have our ups and downs, but to ride them out. That marriage was all about compromise and that you had to give up some arguments and sacrifice if you wanted to make it work.

We loved him for his gruff exterior because we knew it hid a grandpa who wanted to please his grandkids inside. The grandchildren remember rides in the tractor wagon up and down the driveway. Walks through the bush, being taught how to identify animal tracks. Having to sit through Lawrence Welk and Andre Rieu. Watching Pop care for the birds that would hit the window. We'd love to sit in his office and watch him talk on his Ham Radio. We remember getting him frustrated because we kept flying our kites into the antenna tower. Watching Pop sneak cookies to his dog Smokey under the dining room table. Pop was never far from his stack of pencils held together by a rubber band and his crossword puzzles. Helping Pop dig up potatoes in the garden at his home in Hastings or tend to his beautiful flower gardens. We admired how when Pop drove about town, people would wave or holler out a hello and we could tell he was respected by everyone. Pop would always make us laugh with the funniest birthday cards, signed by the "Old Geezer". We all have memories of falling asleep at visits in his apartment because the heat would be cranked up so high, then waking up to the whistles of Pop's bird clock.

And we know he loved his children. Our two families may not have seen a lot of each other, but Pop always kept us abreast of how everyone was doing. We always knew where in the world Aunt Bev and Uncle Harry were, as they travelled a lot. Pop would tell us about his recent discussions about cars with Uncle Harry and what he wished he could drive. We would hear about Aunt Bev's new role as grandmother to Ben. Pop may have given his son, Brian a hard time sometimes, but we know he was proud of him. Pop once told me that he and Nan were proud of Dad's relationship with us girls and they were happy at Dad's commitment for us to have a real relationship with our grandparents. Dad's parenting style may have been different than that of his father's but Pop approved. Pop was also very proud of how Jo Anne took care of him, while checking in on him everyday and buying his "man size" Kleenex.

Pop was very private and didn't often talk about his feelings or personal thoughts. One of the greatest gifts he gave me was last year when Jonathan and I learned that our sons were diagnosed with autism. I thought maybe this would be something that Pop would brush over and ignore because in his time, these things were not something you discussed aloud. Not only did Pop read books to educate himself on the disorder, but Pop shared with me his own experience of the pain of learning that his own baby daughter, Norah, was born with Down Syndrome. And he told me about his anguish over having to break the news to my Nan. It was a gift that I will treasure, because I will remember how strong Pop was in the face of life's challenges and it will help me with mine.

I would like to close with a passage from one of Pop's favourite poets, Robert Service. This is called "Carry On!"

There are some who drift out in the deserts of doubt,
And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go
Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labour with zest, and to give of your best,
For the sweetness and joy of the giving;
To help folks along with a hand and a song;
Why, there's the real sunshine of living.

Carry on! Carry on!
Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here.
Carry on! Carry on!
Let the world be the better for you;
And at last when you die, let this be your cry:
Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

I love you Pop...
-Right-o Chum

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