Raise a glass

When I refer to my parents I of course mean my adoptive parents. I mean, look at me—I don’t have 23 sets of chromosomes; I have 37 sets. I’m a bear, not a human. So, no, my parents didn’t conceive me, which is a great comfort given what a visual creature I am.

They picked me out during a heavy pre-Christmas liquor-buying foray. I practically leapt into their cart, so loaded up was it with booze. They were feeling celebratory because they had a houseful of people. My mum was nine months pregnant and, since she couldn’t partake in the drinking, she was at least vicariously enjoying stocking up.

But I have to give partial credit for my purchase (i.e., the purchasing of me) to a third member of the shopping party. You see, I wouldn’t have jumped so readily into my parents’ shopping cart had it not been so loaded up. And it was my mum’s mother—my Granny—who tipped the scales in that direction. Let me explain…

She was excited. Granny had just arrived in Canada for the birth of her first grandchild. Jetlagged and emotional, this frail little woman, who could have used a post-flight nap, was instead heaving bottles into the cart, jubilant at the prospect of a Christmas party that would bring the whole family together, including a new baby.

I watched, my eyes glassy, as Granny hefted a magnum of sparkling wine into the cart, insisting on buying it for everyone (well, haha, not my rotund mum) to share. My heart melted, and I knew I wanted to join this family that obviously equated copious alcohol consumption with happiness.

And so I took the leap and went home with these people.

It was a calculated risk. Based on the excess of hooch they purchased that day, I thought my new family would keep me gooned forever. And though, sadly, the shopping spree was just for Christmas, and everyone returned to average imbibing levels afterwards, I have since been satisfied with my new home.

I was sad to see Granny fly home that new year. There’s a long-running tradition of talking to bears in her family, and she was no exception. She and I had plenty of white-wine-fueled discussions, and she told me about the bear that had lived in her home since she was small—a bear her mother used to consult whenever a decision needed to be made, and who had multiple pairs of wellingtons. I thought he sounded a bit dry and crusty and that he could use a drink, which Granny said she would consider.

The best part about Granny was that she was always willing to split a bottle with me. While the rest of the house was swilling reds, she’d have her chardonnay, and there I’d be, helping her out. She didn’t need much help, really, as she could put it away, but she didn’t mind my company. She’d had a long history with white wine, sometimes relying on it during hard times, and didn’t always feel welcome to partake among people who knew that about her. She needed someone to say it was okay, that she’d had a difficult life and it was okay. And no one ever did.

Last Saturday Granny, a lifelong smoker, died of lung cancer. When I heard about it, it sobered me for a moment. Granny was a kind person who did her best to be happy, even though it was sometimes very hard for her.

I always figured I’d see her again, and maybe share a glass.

Instead I raise a glass to Granny by myself. Because she’s gone from life but not from mind. And because she was the sort of person who talked to bears.

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