When my great-grandparents lived in Scarborough, there were two big trees in their backyard. Both had a silly little face on the front and each were given a name. Picture two tall trees, the bark peeling with age and the leaves falling slowly at the end of a hot summer onto the gardens below. One of the trees began to gray as I got older while the other stayed vibrant and green as it grew towards the moon.
This was Grandma and Grandpa tree.
As the years passed, my grandfather got sicker and became unable to walk. I try not to remember him in this way though, since he was a proud man who wanted nothing more than to be seen as such. He watched from a main floor window as the trees tired with him and the gardens slowly became unkept and dried up with the summer sun. The day he died was hard on us all. He was the first person in my life that I had known who had passed.
I never said goodbye to the man, but I spoke to the tree which had shared his name, as if the tree was a piece of his soul still living among us. I would ask him questions and pretend he would talk back. Because at that point, I could still hear his voice in the back on my mind. Now the only thing I remember is the way he used to sneeze. A talent my brother and father gained over the years.
When I heard that Grandma was moving away from that house, I became distraught. For I had already lost one version of my only living grandfather and now I was going to lose the tree too. I realized not long after though that it wasn’t about the tree. It was about the memories I had with him. His spirit would wonder the halls of any house my grandmother would live in.
It’s been 9 years since he died.
My grandmother has lived around the corner from me for almost 5 years now and I haven’t had a year since she moved where I felt Grandpa around every corner.
I went through the Christmas decorations with my Nana the other day and found a small Christmas tree no bigger than an average flower vase among her belongings. I asked her where she wanted it, assuming all her decorations would come out. She stared at it for a minute, a little puzzled, as if trying to figure out what it was.
Then she smiled.
I asked her what was wrong and she said nothing but that the tree wasn’t hers. It was Grandpa’s bathroom tree. He had made fun of my Nana for putting a small Christmas tree in every room of his house just before he got really sick. But there was no tree in the bathroom. So, my Nana bought one and put it in there too. He just laughed and shook his head, crying out “My god there is a tree in here now too!”.
I laughed myself as I tried to remember the man’s face that smiled that day. It has only gotten harder and harder.
Sometimes though when it gets hard to remember, I go to my grandmother’s house now and look up at the old tree in the yard. They put a similar face on that tree as they had in the backyard in Scarborough. The tree looks different, but if you look hard enough, the face is there. My grandfather.
We miss him most around this time of year, but we know he is with us. In the decorations and the laughter of our family on Christmas Eve. But most of all, in the trees we come to love.