Thursday, 16 June 2016

Simply Grandpa

I recently had a visit from my mom and we got to talking about her dad. I knew he was a writer and that writing is in my blood. What I did not know (until our chat) was that his entire career started from winning a 'North American wide' short-story contest.

This is what Wikipedia says about him:
John Patrick Gillese (March 7, 1920 – 23 October 1999) was an Irish-born Canadian author whose prolific career spanned six decades from the early 1940s to the late 1990s. During this period he authored over 5,000 pieces including novels, short stories, and information columns that were published in many English-speaking countries.
His 1957 novel, Kirby's Gander, re-titled Wings of Chance, was the first full-length feature film ever shot in Canada by a Hollywood production company and was pivotal in the launching of Canada's professional film industry.

But I simply knew him as 'grandpa.'

Winning the cash prize allowed him the ability to move to the city, buy a typewriter, and eventually become the person in the Wikipedia article above. Now that I have a career in a film industry that he had such a major hand in starting, I am extremely grateful.

Some of the things Wikipedia doesn't know are: my grandpa started a grant of his own that helped many Canadian authors get their start, when he died a park was named after him, and as a baby one of his sons was so used to hearing him type he wouldn't sleep if grandpa wasn't pounding the keys on his old typewriter.

A very clear memory of mine is about how, after he had a stroke, he couldn't press down on the keys hard enough to write so they got him an electronic keyboard that didn't require the extra pressure. Unfortunately, he felt he couldn't use it to type because it didn't feel the same.

It would feel terrible and claustrophobic if I was suddenly unable to write. I wonder how he felt. It seems like getting old means slowly having things taken away from you: your health, your loved ones, and the activities you took part in that made you feel alive.

I hope John Patrick Gillese didn't feel any of that. I hope he knew how much I looked up to him.

I hope that through my writing and my work I can make him proud because to me he isn't John Patrick Gillese, the man who had a park named after him, he is simply 'grandpa.'

- M
*M, This has inspired me to look deeper into my own family history. I have no doubt that your grandpa would be very proud of all you have accomplished. You are truly keeping his spirit alive through your work. I am blessed to share in it. - J

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Maira Gall