It was just on the edges of town, this plot of land with a white house, surrounded by dense trees. There was a gravel drive, and the cars all parked in a mini parking lot, up against the fence. We kids would run all over, hiding in the trees. Not one inch of that land was undiscovered by us.
The fire pit toward the centre. The barbed wire fence that I managed to still escape from when I was a toddler, running off after Lucky, the dog. A stranger found me miles away, somehow crossing highways and off roads, down the TransCanada. My brother sliced his mouth open on glass shards we pretended were ice cubes. The mopeds. Oh, God, they let us drive those things?
Next to the larger house was smaller one that various children and grandchildren would live in as they finished school or found themselves. You could always be sure that inside a beautiful, loving woman with a thick Danish accent would fix you food. The woman could feed an army on a tomato, picked herring, cucumber, and vinegar. And it would be delicious.
And he would be in there. This gregarious, loud man, with twinkly blue eyes.
He liked to tell the story of visiting my parents after I was born. He came into the room to see his brand new granddaughter- and I screamed until he left. He had this voice that carried. But he hardly ever raised it.
The best of my life came from this family he led- kransekage, aquavit, Christmas, Denmark, family, understanding, warmth, love.
He worked his ass off. He was an immigrant with a wife and six kids, eking out a living in post war Southern Alberta. But he was a charmer, and so many people from the towns my dad and his three brothers and two sisters grew up in remembered him with love. Everyone seemed to know him. Everyone. But he retired and spent years relaxing. He and grandma toured around in a motor home until physically he could no longer drive. They managed one last trip home to Denmark. As he pressed on into his late eighties, he seemed as if he would outlive us all, cranky ol’ coot.
Alas, we all knew that it never would turn out that way. Finally, an aneurysm got him. He passed away quickly after it struck him in the early hours of this day. He died with his beautiful bride of sixty-five years there. And the Pedersen family celebrates and honours this man without whom any of us would be here.
Thank you, Grandpa, for everything. I love you, and I’ll miss you terribly. But I was incredibly lucky to have you in my life.