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Gramma and the Roof!

At fifteen, I’m sure anyone can attest, we know everything! Far more than our annoying parents and definitely more than our grandparents.

As tensions grew at home between me, being the know-it-all, and my parents, I made the decision that I needed no one and ran away from home.

It turned out, I was somewhat wrong, and did in fact need shelter, food and water which proved to be difficult at fifteen with no gainful employment or completed education.

Within hours of my “being on the lam” with no real plan for survival, I made it to a friend’s house whose mother thankfully welcomed me in. I had it made! I could do this!

After the quick pleasantries at the door, I took off my shoes and proceeded downstairs with Anna while her mom cooked up a quick meal for me in the kitchen.

Anna lived in a nice house, not huge, and it was older but back then it was considered to be a middle income family nice home.

I was excited to go downstairs as Anna had stated we could play pool while we waited for my dinner. I had never played pool but this seemed like a nice distraction from the situation I now had put myself in - homeless.

As we reached the bottom of the stairs and rounded the corner into the fully finished basement, I remember being in awe as it looked like the perfect game room for any teenager to entertain in. I looked around, noticed the pin ball machines, the dart boards and of course the massive pool table dead center in the middle of the room with a wonderful lamp hanging right over top!

To my surprise, I also noticed the Irish Setter sitting perfectly stoic beside the pool table. That may not sound like a big deal, but I was a dog lover in every aspect. To be in emotional turmoil and see a canine, I found myself instantly relaxed!

“Oh Anna! What’s his name” I asked with a smile beaming from ear to ear.

“That’s Charlie!” Anna proudly exclaimed.

I called this gorgeous Charlie in hopes of getting a big slobbery, kiss filled welcome. “Charlie, come here boy!”

But Charlie didn’t come. In fact, I noticed that Charlie didn’t even blink.

After a few moments, it was obvious to me that Charlie didn’t even breathe.

Anna, noticing my uncomfortable demeanor, explained that Charlie was their pet for eleven years and passed away due to old age many years ago. The family loved him so much that they had decided to take him to a Taxidermist and have him “immortalized”. Upon completion, they had placed him by the pool table as he always loved to watch them play pool.

I’m a pretty laid back person and always have been. I want you to know, that as I write this part of the story now, I’m hoping not to offend anyone who has made the decision to stuff their family pets. What anyone chooses to do, or how they deal with the loss of a beloved pet, is up to them.

What I will say though is, I didn’t play pool that night. I didn’t sleep that night, and I immediately found myself making alternate plans for living accommodations.

Given the fact that stubbornness was genetically passed through my parents (even though that’s denied to this date) and into me, I couldn’t admit any wrong doing that may have caused some of the tension in my relationship with my parents. I felt that my best hope for survival was to move in with my grandparents and thanking God, they took me in with open arms.

Maybe I just needed somewhat of a fresh start. But this change was good. Gramma and Grampa adored me and I did have a very strong relationship with them so the move into their home was a smart one. I was safe, taken care of and mom and dad would know where I was as well as how I was doing.

Living with elderly people though, can bring challenges, particularly when you’re fifteen and as I said, a know it all. For the most part, we got along really well and even slipped quickly into somewhat of a routine.

They had a two-story house in North Kildonan, Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was an older neighborhood, the houses were all “pre-war” and built strong. They were typically two-stories and complete strangers to the “open concept” we find in homes now.

Gramma and Grampa’s house had three small bedrooms upstairs, one of which was immediately given to me. The upstairs also had the only bathroom in the home.

The main floor included the living room, dining room (which really just made for a really long living room), kitchen and entrance way. The basement was what I referred to as a “death trap”. It wasn’t finished and Gramma only used it for stockpiles of toilet paper, canned goods and to do the laundry. I remember hating it when she asked me to go get something as the stairs were only safe for mountain goats as they were so steep and of course had no railings.

The roof on this home was CRAZY steep peaked!

Winter in Winnipeg, or WINTERpeg as we lovingly refer to it as, is known for vast amounts of snow fall.

One of my favorite times, even to this day, is when the temperatures are around zero Celsius, there is no wind, and a gentle snow is falling in the dark sky with a big, bright, high moon. Particularly when the snowflakes are the size of a dime! This is my time to stand outside, starring up to the sky and catch those unique snowflakes on my tongue. The peacefulness of it all is amazing!

But one would be surprised at how much snow accumulation can actually weigh over the course of a winter. Particularly on roof tops. In fact, we actually have “roof shovels” as a home owner needs to be diligent towards the later part of winter.

Never a year goes buy where we don’t read news articles about roofs collapsing due to the weight load of snow that should have been cleared.

I woke up abruptly and ever so reluctantly on a weekend morning to the sounds of my Gramma in an obvious panic…

“Get up Kari! It snowed!” she shouted as if the world had exploded is chaos.

“What Gramma? I’m sleeping!” I replied through my teenager type dramatic yawns.

“It snowed! Get up now and get dressed, we have work to do!” She yelled as I could hear her thumping down the stairs.

I rolled over with somewhat of an urgency but immediately felt cramping in my abdomen. For all the women out there reading this, you know what that cramping was. For the men out there reading this, in our house, we politely and embarrassingly call that cramping “Lady Parts Problems”.

At fifteen years old, I was a gangly and a very tall young women measuring in a 6’. I was a slender build but yet still weighed in at probably a solid 160lbs.

My Gramma, on the other hand was probably just around 5’ tall and probably weighed only about 95lbs being all tiny and dainty like she was. This is important information to know as we go forward with this story.

Going back to the house construction, it was a two story house and the roof was incredibly steep! When I say this, I mean there was not a hope in heck that anything could stay on that roof due to the steepness. In fact, birds rarely sat on the roof for fear of falling off.

Either way, once I limped my crampy, bloated, bad attitude, teenage body downstairs, I found Gramma coming up from the death trap of a basement with rope.

I hadn’t graduated from high school, but I wasn’t an idiot – I feared I knew what the rope meant.

“Get your snow pants, grab the shovel off the porch and meet me upstairs in the bathroom! We have to get that snow off the roof or it’ll bring the whole house down!” She demanded as she headed back up the stairs in a hurry.

So, I did exactly that!

Look, I may have been bigger than my Gramma, but she was feisty! I’ve had occasion to watch UFC fights on television and there is no doubt in my mind that Gramma could of taken Ronda Rousey and given her a “learnin’”. Especially if Gramma had access to a cast iron fry pan!

Without ANY delay, I got my snow pants on, winter coat, mitts, toque and big CLUMSY winter boots and with my grumpy, tired, lady parts problems, I headed upstairs.

For the record, one should know that at that time, I was praying for death and wanting nothing other than to actually curl up in the fetal position with a hot water bottle. But here I am, getting ready to climb out a bathroom window, onto a roof to shovel snow that I darn well know is not there.

I adored my Gramma, but I also learned quickly to not argue with her. This was definitely one of those times.

As a side note, another time to not argue with Gramma was when she wanted to drive 45 minutes one way to save .10 on butter. As I had firsthand knowledge, you were best in that situation to just get in the car, make small talk for the 45 minutes, get the damn butter and be excited about it! But I digress.

I got into the bathroom where Gramma was already working furiously at taking out the bathroom window. I might add, this window was probably 1.5’ wide by maybe 2’ tall. Are you remembering my size?!?

The fear took hold and I couldn’t help but try reasoning at this point.

“Gramma, there’s no snow on the roof!” I explained as I looked out the window.

“Of course not, that part is steep, but there will be around the corner!” Her voice sounded so sure.

“Gramma, I love you, but I’m going to die. There is no way, I can climb that roof!” I begged.

“Don’t be ridiculous! I’m going to tie you to me in case you do fall!” She stated as she was tying the one end of the rope around my stomach.

I now remind you of HER size. I’m at least 160 and she’s lucky if she’s 95lbs soaking wet… You do the math!

With me now tied to her, and apparently safe from the proven scientific effects of gravity, I started trying to make my way out the second story window.

That in itself was a good 20 minute ordeal.

After trying to safely go out one leg at a time, it was painfully obvious that I just simply didn’t fit in the window frame. Believe me, I tried!

I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think the best Cirque Du Solei contortionist could have fit through that window on a good day, never mind while wearing Winnipeg winter gear!

The last resort which was recommended by Gramma, was me going headfirst as far as I could and her shoving me the rest of the way out by my boots.

As I started arms first, the thoughts of tucking and gracefully rolling out the window were abandoned as I felt the momentum of that somersault on the steep roof would prove to be too much and I might just somersault my butt right off the side of the house.

My only option was to try a graceful “belly flop”. At least this way, I could try to cling to the roof as I inevitably slid down the completely bare of snow asphalt shingles.

This actually did work! Was it painful? Absolutely! Particularly with the Lady Parts Problems, and the quick “heave ho” shove Gramma gave me. But it was successful and I quickly found myself trying to cling onto something for my life.

Given the fact it was winter, I couldn’t believe the sweat I felt I was swimming in! I was drenched to the core and the winter gear seemed to be weighted down even more from this. Having said, I don’t think that was a bad thing as it may have helped with some resistance.

“What the hell are you doing out there? Grab the shovel!” Gramma lovingly asked, SAID NOBODY EVER.

Sure enough, as I looked toward the window above me, the shovel was hanging out.

“You’re safe! I got you. We’re tied – you can’t go anywhere without taking me with you!”

Let’s talk about the rope that tethered us together.

Where it was a very strong rope indeed, it was also about 25’ long and she had tied the one end to me and the other end to her. In my mind, this rope, if I fell, was long enough for me to not only gain speed as a slid off the roof, but would only become tight with me hanging about 10’ off the roof.

As I reached for the shovel, it was painfully obvious to me that this operation did not only put my life in peril but also my Gramma’s.

Looking back, I think I was okay with the thought of falling off the roof. I probably would have broken multiple bones, but I was also young and they would likely heal. The upside of this would be that Gramma would take care of me and obviously never ask me to do something so ridiculous again.

My Gramma however, if I fell, would come through that window frame like a bloody rocket probably taking the window frame and a good portion of the wall with her! There would be ZERO chance of her not being killed!

I grabbed that shovel and inch wormed my way across the roof and out of her sight from the window.

I never did shovel anything but I certainly made a lot of noise so Gramma would BELIEVE I shoveled and shoveled my butt off! From a laying on my belly position, I banged that shovel on the roof, made scraping sounds, and probably did more damage to the shingles than anything else.

After about an hour or so of me pretending to diligently shovel the roof and with a fake out of breath voice, I declared victory.

“Gramma! We did it! There’s no more snow up here, we’re all good!”

“Great! Hurry up and get it here, we’re heating all of Winnipeg and it’s time for breakfast!” Gramma said hotly, but I heard the pride in her voice of a job well done! Okay, maybe there was no pride, but I pretended there was.

I let the shovel fall off the roof hoping that its deadly plummet to the ground would leave a lasting impression with Gramma on what could have been but it went unnoticed. I shimmied on my belly back to the window and made my way back in as I did out. With an unsupported belly flop into the tub. Gramma did of course help by pulling my wedged body through the frame by my behind.

Gramma untied us, we went about our day and the roof never fell in due to snow accumulation!

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed!

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Karen Grzenda

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