Robert James Gordon Mitchell, 1925-2010

(Updated.)  My grandfather, Bob Mitchell, died on Saturday night.  The interment took place on Thursday on Vancouver Island.  The obituary appeared Friday in the Globe:

During a long life, Bob did what was important to him and lived his social-democratic values to the end. He was a fine amateur cook, proud of having launched the Sunflower Café in Regina. He was a keen collector of Canadian art. Even as he became more frail, he remained deeply interested in public affairs and was a faithful watcher of Newsworld and the Jim Lehrer Report.

I wrote the following poem as a tribute to a very fine man, whom his grandchildren called “Gramps”; my brother Dave read it at the interment.

Dinner at Gramps’s
28 April 2010

You’re glad to reach the door.  Before you knock,
It opens.  Gramps was looking out for you.
He shakes your hand, he takes your coat, his smile
As wide as prairie evenings.  From inside
You hear and smell the feast: it’s something new,
He says, a recipe he’s trying out.
His apron on, he points to the TV,
Where something’s wrong, and something’s quite good news;
You feel, now here’s a patriotic man.
You take a turn at stirring, and he pours
Your favourite drink, asks how you found the drive,
And how’s the family; he’s been reading up
About a painter, not far north, the town
Is one he knows quite well, and yesterday
The paper had a column — landscape, oils.
The food is ready, table’s nicely laid,
There’s gravy (light: these days he keeps an eye
On calories, though he’s looking very fit —
You’d never know his age), and here’s the pie:
Minced pork, and onions, with a nice side dish
Of mango chutney — all homemade, of course —
And good Canadian wine, one you remarked
Last time, and he’s remembered you preferred it.
Like the dinner, so the talk now moves
From that first bite (how each of you has been),
To broad reflections (nothing rash, of course),
And words, like forkfuls, count.  Yes, each one counts,
And that’s especially why they’re always good.
A second helping?  Yes, but you refuse
A third — there’s something special in the way
His eyebrows flicker with a hidden smile
When he suggests dessert: a pecan pie,
Glowing upon a handsome plate, and thus
A chance to speculate about the future:
Yours, the nation’s, all the world’s dreams.
You feel like talking and you love to listen.
Coffee.  Time seems to have given up,
But there’s the drive back waiting.  Time
To offer to clean up and be refused.
He finds your coat.  A handshake, firm and true,
Although his hand is getting weaker.  Now
You wish that you could stay, or that the time
Had come to dine again.  A wave goodbye.
He watches from the doorway, waves again,
And smiles as only he can smile.  Goodbye!
Oh, goodbye, Gramps!  And thanks!  We’ll see you soon!