We weren't biologically related. But that never mattered. In the end, I was always treated like a grandson. He wore many hats during his life and was known by many names, as a father, a grandfather, Sgt. Beamish among others. To me, though, he was quite simply, Cliff.
A sad day it was to learn he had died in his sleep a few days ago but a great life lived and I never tired of hearing all his great stories, whether they be about his time in uniform or his service in Germany. (No doubt he would be proud to know that my nephew, the only great grandson he met, will be graduating basic training for the air force in the coming days.) One tale he was always fond of relating was leaving Whitehorse, YK for a posting overseas and having to drive all the way to Halifax, NS with family in tow in a mere 5 days. Its one of those epic tales of family lore that grew with each recounting.
He taught me how to play cribbage and it was an activity I enjoyed with him well in to his autumn years. I seldom won and we always joked that he must somehow be cheating. This always elicited a deep baritone laugh that I will always miss. I recall only beating him once....and I really had to work for it.
While he slowed down considerably toward the end of his life and was hit with dementia and survived open heart surgery in his 80's, he was always a man full of life. In many ways he seemed bigger than life. I recall once seeing an old photo of him taken shortly after the war I believe of Cliff in his uniform along with Grandma Ferne happy and full of life. They were married for well over 60 years, something that is becoming a rarity in this day and age.
Thanks for all those epic cribbage matches, Cliff.
Thanks your humour, your stories and your laughter.
Thanks for being YOU.
Thanks for accepting a 10-year-old kid as your own grandson. You will be greatly missed.
Rest easy, good soldier.