Conversations with Gran on nutrition, dementia and euthanasia 

My paternal grandmother, known to me as “Gran” and my kids as “Great Big Gran” (when they were little they thought a great-grandmother was also big, it stuck, names are funny like that), lives in her hometown village in New Brunswick and is my last living grandparent. 


Anj, Gran and Grandad around 1985
 I got to spend quite a bit of time with Gran as a kid. She seemed to always need my sister and I to go stay with her for a week over Christmas, March break and summer break. I didn’t realize she was a part of my parents’ childcare strategy, it just felt like a holiday. 

Gran has always been an active person. In her teens she played high school basketball, cross-country skied and loved to walk. 

I looked for pictures of her but they are far and few between, her story is not documented in photos like mine is. 

When she looked after Anj and I walking was exercise, entertainment and how we ran errands to the post office, pharmacy, grocery store and, most importantly, got ice cream. Big heaping scoops of ice cream and lots of desserts. 😀


I’m on the left, Anj on the right as we practice racing
 In the winter visits we’d cross-country ski, snowshoe and even go to Mont Farlange to downhill ski. After my grandfather retired and they moved back to McAdam the skiing and snowshoeing were along the perimeter of thier 100 acre wood lot. Our job was to clear the line of limbs and freshen the blaze markings. It was done by hand because gas and a chainsaw were a lot of lugging compared to axes and buck saws. Anj, Gran and I would spend a day trekking as my grandfather cut down trees. 

Gran continues to be in great shape. She shared with me that at some point she was getting stiff, achy and losing mobility. Her doctor suggested stretching as soon as she got up. That was 30 years ago and she still does her twists, stretches and forward bends to touch her toes every morning. She is the kind of person to stick with what works. 

She still gets up early and loves to walk, although now it’s just for 30 minutes instead of the 2 hours she did in her 60s and 70s.

We chat on the phone about once a month and her thoughts turn what her end of life will look like. Her biggest fear has always been to “loose her mind”. We’ve had friends and family with dementia and, given her sharp wit, Gran fears loosing that the most. 

She’s been following the euthanasia debate in Canada. It’s surprising how often we talk about it but she’s seen many people die in many different circumstances. I think the idea of having more control over death is comforting and she hopes the laws will be in place soon. 

Recently Gran received a letter from a former neighbour who is 93. Gran told me how great the penmanship was and how her much older friend always ate meat, not the toast and tea many seniors default too. She’s certain her own weightloss is due to not eating as much as she should, cooking for one seems a bother. 

When I look at Gran I see a woman who has been active her whole life. Her footware of choice are athletic shoes. She dresses in bright colours, a trait we share. I think about how her fitness has served her well, through many challenges, and that sense of vitality still shines through. She bucks the stereotype of the staid little old lady who doesn’t do much and I’m very thankful for that. 

Anj, Dad, me, Grandad and Gran my first year of military college.
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