Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Grandchildren


One of my favorite memories was one of the times when I was going to University.  Every Christmas I would come up to Grammy and Grampys and I would put up their Christmas tree. 

Both Grammy and Grampy made a big event over it.  It would be an all day affair.  They would sit in each of their perspective chairs, and Grammy would make pop corn.

*This audio includes Michael and Tracey*

Their artificial tree was one of the first that they ever had.  I would put all the branches in.  Every ornament I took out of the box they would tell me a story about each one. 

The funniest would be putting the Christmas lights on the tree. Because most of them would be melting onto the plastic.  I would say that pretty much half the lights were melted. 

But we would always have a good chuckle.  It was probably one of the most special times.  I would spend the night.  Grammy would tell me some pretty good war time stories.  

It was a very special time for me.

It reminds me of how important traditions are.  I am trying to create that now that I have 2 little girls of my own.  I am trying to create traditions that we have each year.  So for us it is putting up the Christmas tree together.  

That is what we do even the first year when my child was just a baby.  We would sit around and put the ornaments up.  Most of it would be for me.  But it is a special time.


I am the eldest grandchild of Herbert and Mary Marshall.

I remember when Grammy used to give me back rubs.  She would use rubbing alcohol and tell me stories about the war. 

I remember her telling me that she went out partying one time while she was in France.  I guess it was near the front and she was out drinking with some of the other nurses.  They were being driven back by some of the soldiers there and because it was wartime, they weren’t allowed to drive with full headlights. 

They couldn’t see the road so well and so they went off the road and that is how she got a head injury.  I remember her telling me that story.

The back rubs she used to give to her patients in the hospital during the war.  I used to like them and my mom used to give them to me.

I used to always sleep in the room upstairs in the house in Toronto.  It was always in the room on the right.  It had a big tall bed and it wasn’t very comfortable.  And the room even had one of those pots that people used to pee in.  

I think my grandparents and your parents had a real sense of honor, and commitment to family and values.  These are the kinds of things that guide you, and give you direction in your own life and give you a moral grounding. 

I think that is very important for my mother.  Because that is obviously where she got her values.  And that is where I got mine.

The tradition I carry on I like to call the intensity of grounding that my grandparents had.

Coming here was something we had to do.  We had to come.  Family is important.  It is important to honor them.

We always did something with them every year.   There was some trip that was always the Bryants.  Either going on the house boat on Lake of the Woods, or going to Mexico

One of the last bits of advice that Grampy gave me in 2008 after the global recession.  He told me not to quit my job.

Unfortunately my grandparents couldn’t come up North for my wedding.  Which was in 2010.  Instead they watched it on skype.

*Click Below to See Rest of Report*


I am the second eldest grand daughter.  

We lived so far away.  We were up in the north.  I think they always made an effort to stay connected.  I remember them coming up in the summer a lot of times. 

I remember traveling to their place in Toronto.  The house and its rooms and the old beds.  The old memorabilia, things frozen in time.  Still to this day it is very sentimental.  I kept the bed sheets from that room we were talking about. 

The bed actually had a big dip in it.  It was so old.  You slept horribly on it. 

Grampa always used to write letters.  He would ask me about a boy friend.  Is he a puppy dog?  If he was a puppy dog tell him to go away. 

They were always supportive and I think proud.  With Grampa he said all I ever want from you is a painting.  If you can find the time.  I don’t remember what the context was.  But the one I gave them was one of my best paintings. 

They had been to Yellowknife so many times.  ( describes painting)

He was always very supportive of me when I was starting out in my new home.  When I got married and with my children. 

I remember being in art school.  There was a phase when I would dye my hair different colors every other week.  I came to visit them and I had purple hair.  I was also into wearing flea market vintage clothing. 

I think Grampa was a little concerned about me being so colorful.  Gramma said, I think you look very nice. 

I also remember Christmas time.  I spent Christmas with them one year when I was in Montreal.  I took the train down to visit them. 

Grampa said he had some old Christmas ornaments.  They knew that I loved decorating the tree.  And they just sort of sat there.  They had these old ornaments.  Probably that did not have value but they were so old. 

Then they still had the string of lights from the 40’s or 50’s.  We had to go through the lights very carefully, because it was one of those that if one went, they would all go.  And they would also melt the tree a bit. 

I decorated the tree with every old fashioned bulb that they had.  They may have had some new stuff but we decided to go with an old traditional Christmas.  So that was kind of special. 

Years later I inherited that box of Christmas ornaments and it is one of the most special things to me.  I have small children so I am very very cautious about pulling them out because they are all glass. 

They are like from Woolworths and some still have the old price tags.  But they are from the 60’s.  They are very special to me.  Sometimes I will put one or 2 out.

I remember when Grampa gave them to me when I was visiting them.  I remember Grampa said we would like to give you those Christmas ornaments.  I still remember that Christmas you came up.   And Gramma said…..I am not dead yet.

I had this medieval themed wedding.  A lot of family came up for that.  It was very special.  Grampa was supposed to come up but he broke his leg.  It was devastating to him and it was devastating to me.  Because we were very close, but Gramma came.

It was probably the last trip that she made up North. 

You had to come in medieval costume and it was the hottest day.  It took place on a rock on an island in the middle of the lake.  You had to come by boat and it was super windy. 

There was Gramma, the matriarch of the family.  She was all dressed up with a veil, and a sparkly long gown.  She was always so well dressed.  She was as happy as could be.  She had a really great sense of humor.  

Supportive of my arts…..

I had an experimental phase.  I came back full circle to being a painter.  But there was a phase when I was in Montreal and I was taking an interdisciplinary degree and I was involved in theater. 

I did a lot of theater design.  That particular summer when I graduated I was touring the fringe circuit with my little company.  And we had a show in Toronto.  Gramma and Grampa said that they would come and see it. 

Well I guess they arrived a little late.  I was expecting them and had been waiting out in the lobby.   They didn’t show and I thought, o well darn, things happen.

So I go into the theater and I am actually managing a projector.  I am up in the booth so I can see everything.

A little later all I see is the door open.  I knew the rules of theater that if you are late for the fringe festival too bad.  You missed the show.  It happened about 15 minutes in and I see the door open a crack.  Then I see this head poking in and it is Grampa. 

Then I see this woman being shoved through the door and it is Gramma.  He pushes her in.  Then he scurries in and they slink in together to find a seat. 

Then I heard the story afterwards.  It was in the Fringe newspaper.  Ticket attendant was threatened by an old man with an umbrella. 

I guess they had gotten off at the wrong subway stop and had to walk that long extra block.  So that was very special. 

I asked him late how did he like the show and he was like well…..I didn’t understand it.  But it looked very nice.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.


What they instilled in me is if you take a licking and you keep ticking.  No person or event was going to take you down and define you.  You just to have to keep going. 

That was true grit.  That was true strength.  That is a big thing for me.  It is also something I value in other people.

I tend to lean towards people like that.  People who are able to keep going. 

As they aged, and being there with them.  And having a relationship with them as they aged.  Watching as Grampy broke his femur and Grammy go through a heart attack and then another heart attack. 

Seeing them fight and then get back up.  Watching that in them.  They never let that get them down.  They always got back up afterwards.

Some of the last conversations I had with Grampy were when he was doing his physio.  That was something he would do whenever I was at the house with him.  You have to do my exercises with me. 

2 days before he died, that was it.  He was doing his physio.  He was not prepared to die.  In my opinion when it did happen he was doing his physio and preparing to move on.  That is the strength.

The same with Grammy.  If given the opportunity she would have just kept fighting. 

I always promised Grampy that I would do my PHD.  He said I had to do it.  I had to be Doctor Bennie.

I was concerned when I took on the Masters degree that I wasn’t doing what he asked me to do. 

I was walking with Mom a few weeks ago and I said.  I know that he is very very happy with me doing this Masters and going the business route.  That is exactly what he did.  He led people.  That is the way that I am going. 

I didn’t do the PHD but I did go back to school and I promised him that. 

He would tell me, never lose your nerves.  He did this all the way through my career at Sick kids.  Then when I was at Sunnybrook he would say, never lose your nerve.

I would visit and complain and moan about work.  He would just say, don’t back down.  Keep going.

Even Gram to her credit.  The last good coherent conversation I had with her.  It would have been in October.  I said to her, I don’t think I can do this.  I don’t think I can work and go to school.  I think I am going to lose my mind. 

She just said, no, no.   You got this.  You got this locked down.  You are going to do it.  You are going to educate yourself.  This is what you are meant to do. 

It was just a very beautiful conversation.   It was just what I needed at that moment.  

That was thing about them.  I would always go to them when I was about to break, and when I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself.  Then I would walk out of the house thinking…… I got this totally.

That was how they impacted me.  When I went to visit I would tell Mom, I am going to charge my battery.  I need a little battery charge.  Right now I don’t like myself. 

I would walk out of their house and I would feel like a million bucks.   That is what they did.

Michael Bennie

I don’t know if I see today as a chapter closing.  I think that the age that we are now I feel more like the torch has been passed.  And that it was passed when they were living. 

I don’t look  at it as if it were a book where the chapter closes.  It is instead a continuous tale.  Where you are handing it down to the next generation.  I feel that they had passed it on already.  

We saw them quite frequently.  It is funny because I think we saw different grandparents than some of the younger Marshall Grand kids did. 

I had a conversation with Adam about how Grampy used to be very stern and very strict with us.  By the time Adam came along it was all bubble gum and candy.  We did see them quite a bit because we lived so close. 

I have all kinds of memories and stories of going to visit them.  Grammy had her garden in the back and she had all of her plants inside.  She was always very willing to talk about that.

I have all the spoons.  I thought it was going to be a fist fight for the spoons.  I asked for them and I was the only one who wanted them.  So we have them at home hung up on the wall in the basement.

I think I wanted the spoons because it was just the memory of Grammy and asking her…..where is this one from?  Then hearing those stories.

It is funny because Shalin and I were down in the basement just a couple of days ago and she was looking at the spoons and saying…….where is this one from?  Which one is your favorite?

There is that continuation of that torch story I guess. 

I think Grampy was always very supportive.  I felt it was a very directive support.  So it was, I am supporting you but I also want to direct you.  Once I made a decision then he was very supportive of that. 

The funny thing we talk about getting into teaching with Grammy and I distinctly remember this.  In my previous career when I went up to the Marshalls and Grammy and Grampy were there.  Grammy was asking me about work and I was describing it to her and she just said, do you like it?

And I said no, because I didn’t like what I was doing at the time.  She said, well, do something else.

It seems like such a simple answer but at the time I was, oh…..okay.

So that helped me champion the idea of going on and being a teacher.  The timing was perfect.  They were always there when the time was right.  When you needed them. 

They were world travelers.  For me that was the most amazing kind of thing.  It seems like they were retired the whole time that I have been alive. 

It is inspirational the things that they have done in their retirement years.  The thing that I always think of and take away from them is their desire to set up future generations for success.  And that is something that we are doing with our kids.  In terms of making sure that there is a support system for them.  I think I learned that from them, Grammy and Grampy.


I am the youngest grandchild of Grammy Marshall. 

The other grandchildren tell me I definitely got the more light hearted side of the grand parents.  They never yelled.  They never argued.  They always treated me like I was super special.

They used to take me on walks in the forest (behind our house in Gormley) and Grampy used to put me on his shoulders.  We would go looking for tigers and lions.  They used to walk me.  I am not sure if Brianna joined us or not. 

At one point he showed me how to make a whistle.  That was something he would do quite often.  We would find a nice piece of wood when we walked and then we would make a whistle. 

He basically told me that he had gotten a real good feeling about Hilary.  It was if he knew that she was the one for me.  

It didn’t surprise me because I have always taken the opinion of my grandparents very seriously.  That meant a lot to me when he said it.  I had a little bit of a profound experience. 

Over the years just thinking about it.  I don’t know if he saw Grammy in her.  Or that he saw the values of a potential life mate in her.  That is what I thought he meant at the time.  She would make a great life long partner.

I am putting effort into everything I do.   Staying committed.  Finishing things right out to the end of the task.  Something that has definitely been passed down to me.  Probably from my Grand parents to your generation and then to us. 

They both called me little Joe from Kokomo.  They always used to bring over bubblegum for me knowing that I would never spit it out.  That I would chew it and then eat it. 

Then I would hear stories about all this gum accumulating in my tummy because I never spit it out. 

I will never forget Grammy’s sweetness.  She was so sweet and kind to me all the time.  She was always willing to put on a pot of tea for me even when I was only 5 or 6 years old.  When I don’t think my parents would let me have any tea or caffeine. 

I just hold onto those memories.  When we would have a cup of tea and some ginger snaps.  We would talk and I would play around in the garden while she worked in it. 

Those are the memories that I am going to hold onto.  In their backyard.  Grammy enjoying the weather and me just running around.


I am Grammy and Grampy’s youngest grand child. 

Before you came I was thinking how spoiled I felt by them.   I know we all got the same kind of treatment but I definitely felt spoiled by them.

Both attention and gifts.  We had family dinners at our house almost every Sunday, and Gramma and Grampa never came empty handed.  They always had something for us. 

Grammy would have candies and she would bring me a pair of slippers.  Because I used to steal her slippers when she came over. 

Whenever they took me to visit their friends at fitness, and even in my high school days when I thought, they have no idea what kind of bad kid I am they such an enormous sense of pride. They would show me off to their friends. 

Looking back at it is was so nice.  

The summer I helped them I said for years that that was my favorite summer.  When you are younger you don’t look at them as people.  You see them as your grandparents and when I stayed with them that summer.  I got to see the dynamic of their relationship.  I got to really learn about them in a sincere and genuine way. 

I was like, o my gosh, they are real people. They have real things going on.  And every day I showed up Grampa would tell me how beautiful I looked and how pretty my dress was and Grammy would be the same. 

She would peel the skin off my apple.  I was like 18.  I learned so much about them.  I even stayed with Grampy when Grammy went out east with Aunt Carole-Ann.  I stayed with him overnight.

I could hear him pray every night through his door and it was something that really got to me.  It was so touching.  You could hear him talk about everyone. 

I sat at the top of the stairs and just listened through the door.  It was incredible.  It was an amazing experience and when I left I sent them a card afterwards saying that they were my best friends that summer. 

It happened the summer that Dad moved to Goderich.  So there wasn’t anything going on at our house in Gormley.  Mom was packing.  I preferred being with Grammy and Grampy rather than our house on Preston Lake.  I felt sad that we were leaving our childhood home. 

Grammy and Grampy gave me a sense of still being at home.  Even when I moved downtown after that summer.  I tried to get up there and visit every Thursday for dinner. I just enjoyed my time with them more know them as human beings.

If my little girl ever asks me about Grammy I would like to tell her just how brave and strong of a woman she was.  Even her telling me her stories about being in the army.  Excuse my language but she was bad ass. 

She was strong and fierce.  I always admired that about her. 

And Grampy, even though there were times when I thought he was tough and kind of hard.  He was really a softy.  But very spiritual. 

In Grampy I see my Dad all the time now.  In certain things he does.  I know that my parents will be the same kind of grand parents.  Proud, and I know my daughter will get spoiled to bits. 

Weeks before Grammy passed, she was the first person I told that I was pregnant.  I came from the hospital where I had my test done.  I went to her because I knew she was having a bad day. 

I told her and she choked up and she was so excited.  I thought she would keep it a secret but she ended up telling everybody who called. 

So I know how happy and proud they would be.  I would like to continue to share memories of Grammy and Grampy with my own kids.


I was in Melbourne.  We had been there for just a couple of months at this point.   There was a week when Grampy couldn’t get a hold of me.  Do to the time difference or do to the job.  I don’t recall why but he sent me an email.

And it read, to my main man.  All of a sudden we have lost contact.  Known facts regarding your recent path

    1.  Your company has recognized your abilities and given you a promotion.

2.     Christine has learned the hard way that Australia makes it difficult if not impossible for an immigrant to get a job, that can easily be filled by a local citizen.  

3.     All of this will cause you to rethink your immediate future.  You will decide to follow the money and keep your eye open for some convicts great grand daughter. 

He then told me he would keep his computer on between 9 and 10 in order for me to try and reach him back. 

We skyped weekly.  Him and Grammy would always cozy up to the computer.  We would skpe for 15 minutes at a time.  

I always thought that they were proud of me.  Having an international job.  I always felt that Grampy knew that I was destined for good things with the job.  He always supported me.  Made it a lot easier to leave the family. 

We pretty much ate the same.  Grammy always cooked amazing meals for me.  My lamb chops and she would always make gravy. 

I enjoyed the games that Grammy would always play.  Mostly card games in front of the tv.  Eating dinner in front of the tv that was always special.  That is something that we wouldn’t do at home. 

We would play a lot of card games and she would have that bucket of popcorn beside her bed that I always knew was there. 

I knew where the scotch mints were as well.  Visiting them was always fun.  I always enjoyed my time there.  It continued on all the time I was in Toronto working.  I visited them every Tuesday night.  I didn’t let that go to waste. 

I was staying with them before I got my apartment and was going to my first day at my new job.   They both wanted to help me get dressed. Which was a little bit different. 

At one point I was in the washroom and I was about to put some gel in my hair.  Grampy came in and he wanted to help with that so he put a tiny dab of gel in my hair to make sure that I didn’t over grease up my hair. 

But surely it wasn’t enough.  It was the size of a pea.  That much wasn’t going to do anything. 

He had a list of things not to do in the office.  The main one that I can recall him saying was….. don’t have a drink.  I think it was the number one piece of advice. 

While everyone else in the room is at a work function and they are having a drink.  Be the guy that doesn’t. 

I think it was his way of more or less telling me to stay in control.  Make sure I have my eye on every opportunity that came my way. 

It was good advice.  Especially in Australia where they drink quite a bit. 

My middle name is Elliot and I think it just destined me to be their favorite.  Grammy’s favorite any way. 



I am Herb Marshall’s oldest son and Herbert Ansley the 4th. 

I have a couple of stories one for each of my grandparents. I guess they are along the lines of just how much pride I had in my grandparents. 

I will start with my grandfathers story first. 

The whole reason I am a mechanical engineer and the whole reason I did engineering is because of Grandpa. 

He always encouraged me to head in a scientific field.  But I think it was more that I just wanted to be like him more than anything.  

I don’t even think that when I first got into engineering that I even knew what it really was.  I just knew that my grandfather was an engineer, therefore I wanted to be an engineer. 

Fast forward 5 years in my education and we were about to have our iron ring ceremony.  For which in Canada when you are at the end of your schooling you are presented with an iron ring.  It is to remind you of poor decisions that engineers have made over the years. 

Decisions that have cost civilian lives and caused damage.  

As part of that ceremony we are encouraged to invite someone special to you.  To present you with that ring.  So for this ceremony I chose my cousin Eric who is also an engineer and also my Grandfather. 

On graduation day there were close to 800 engineering students graduating.  Each one if they didn’t bring someone had a delegate.  So there were 12 to 14 hundred people in this auditorium. 

It is called the iron ring ceremony and it is very guarded and secretive.  There is a thorough process that goes on. 

At the beginning of the ceremony though they chose to introduce some of the alumni and presenters of rings.  I guess at some point and I don’t even remember.  I must have filled out a form informing the organizers that I was bringing my Grandfather. 

It asked what he did, where he graduated from, and what year and such.  

So any way they are rolling through announcing all the names.  Then they just stop.  They project a picture of Grandpa up and made a little speech about how my grandfather is longest serving engineer that is in the room.  Out of all the engineers there. 

It was something like 50 or 60 years as an engineer.  The entire room stood up and gave him a standing ovation.  It was very touching.  I have never felt such pride for anyone in my entire life.

It was a very special moment for me and I know it was a very special moment for him as well.

Moving on Grandma.  She used to attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies in the Square after she and Grandpa moved to Goderich. 

If my work accommodated and I was able I would try and get the time to come down and join her on the bus to go to the ceremony.  Or drive her to the ceremony. 

I think this must have been 3 or 4 years ago.  The ceremony is outdoor in the Square.  There is a beautiful cenotaph monument.  It seems like the entire town comes out.  All the veterans are dressed up and lined up. 

Grandma and I were sitting on the outer edge because she was wheeling around on that little walker that she had.  She couldn’t get too close. 

The person leading the ceremony who I think was Alan Livingston, began to talk about all the sacrifices that all our soldiers and men and women had made. 

Then he started introducing some of the veterans.  At the end of this he started talking about this one woman who he believed to be the oldest nurse who served in World War 2.  And introduced my Grandmother who I was standing beside.

I didn’t even know this at the time.  That she carried this achievement.  Again they made her stand up.  The entire crowd gave her a standing ovation. 

It was another incredibly special moment that I got to share with Grandma.

Everybody is proud of their grandparents.  But to actually feel the pride in the moment.  It was 2 very special moments, that I got to share with my grandparents.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

What a terrific homage to your mom and dad and to their importance in their grandchildren' s lives. Love the pictures and I am really happy that you were able to include the sound bites. I know that this will be a lasting testament and will be passed on to the great grandchildren as part of their history.

Thanks Utpal ❤️