As I do every night, I called my sons last night and the young one who is 8 years old asked me, dad who will you remember tomorrow? I said I will remember all of our veterans but I will mostly remember Matthew Sinclair from Brokenhead First Nation in Manitoba, my Mishoom. I said to him, your great grandpa was a tough Ojibway man whom fought with the Winnipeg Grenadiers (also known as NS Highlanders) in World War II. I explained to him that he carries the traits of Matthew, that in his blood is the will to fight and survive and that he should be proud that his papa fought for his freedom. I said so when people ask you if someone in your family fought in war, you tell them about your papa.
It got me thinking about my relationship with him and our cherished memories and I can recall one specific night. I spent my life on the outdoor rinks as a child, literally spent my life on them and one time he was visiting from Manitoba and he decided he would come and watch me play at the rink. The snow was falling lightly on a warm winter evening. He stood at the boards as I showed off my skills for him and he smiled continuously. I can remember showing him how strong my backwards skating and backhand was, he says you are great at things that require you to do it backwards. My backwards grandson.
At one point he asked if I would sit with him in the snowbank just on the outside of the rink and I thought he was crazy, but I did. We both sat down and he put his arm around me and we just looked up at the stars. I was wondering where the heck the snow was coming from? if the skies were so clear, a question I asked him. He asked me to be quiet as we sat there in silence for a while and of course I kept asking him questions and he kept telling me to be quiet. Finally, I listened and we sat quietly, both looking up at an orange sky and a handful of stars as big snowflakes fell from nowhere that I could see, maybe they were coming from the heavens I thought.
In hindsight, I know now why he wanted to sit there with his grandson. I know why his smile was the biggest I ever saw when I showed off my hockey skills for him. I know why he smiled when I showed him my book of stories, one of my hundreds of books filled with stories that I carried around with me as a child containing some of the wildest stories from a wild imagination. He smiled because he was grateful that he was where he was. He smiled because he survived some of life’s greatest tragedies and was given the chance to see his grandson, his descendant, excel at things in life that would lead to success.
That would be the last time we would enjoy each other’s company before he left us, returning to the heavens from which the snow fell from that night. As I have grown to understand life a bit more today than I did yesterday, I realize that he lived a difficult life as a soldier, a veteran and an Indian. Today, I remember my Grandfather, my Mishoom, my hero and my biggest fan. But I honor him every day, remembering to do things bigger than I ever dreamed, which was his expectation of me. So in saying that, I am grateful to have had a Mishoom who loved me so much, one I loved in return. One that to this day, I miss and remember. Matthew Sinclair, a hero to Canada, a savior to me…