© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
Dorothy Marshall was her name, but everyone called her Grandma “D.” Jason had lived with her since he was ten––she was old then. He’d been told if he messed up there, it was the end of the line for him.
Grandma “D” didn’t say much and didn’t have a lot of rules, but one thing she insisted on was respect. “You won’t get anywhere in life, Jason, without respect for others, and yourself,” she’d said.
Jason was playing Junior “A” hockey now and his biggest fan was Grandma “D.” She never missed a game. He recalled the day she’d signed him up. He’d been playing hockey at the neighbourhood rink, and she’d been watching from her living room window. At supper, there was an envelope beside his plate.
“What’s this for?” he’d asked.
Grandma “D” had smiled. “I was thinking you might like to play hockey on a real team this winter.”
“But the teams are already selected,” Jason said.
“Father McNab has an opening on his team––one of the boys moved away.”
Jason hadn’t been sure about playing church hockey, but to play for a real team, well that was beyond his wildest dreams. He opened the envelope and saw two crisp one hundred dollar bills.
“If you don’t want to play hockey,” Grandma “D” began, “use the money for something else.”
Jason’s eyes had widened, “Anything I want?”
“Yep, as long as it’s respectful. The team has a game in the morning at 7:00. If you want to play, Father McNab said to just show up.”
Jason had hidden his joy as he shoved the envelope in his pocket and headed to his room. As Grandma “D” had watched him go, she whispered a silent prayer.
The next morning she was up early. The clock clicked to 6:45––still no Jason. Suddenly, he came bounding down the stairs.
“I’m not too late, am I?” he shouted.
She smiled. “No, we can make it!”
That was ten years ago. Tonight, he was being honoured with the “Most Valuable Player” award, and next season he’d be playing in the NHL. The ceremony began. Jason noticed Grandma “D” in her usual spot. She was wrapped in a blanket. She’d mentioned her arthritis was beginning to best her.
Coach Benson was at the microphone. “I have the honour tonight to hand out the “Most Valuable Player” award to a young man who will be moving on to bigger things next season. We’ll miss you, number 22. Jason Marshall, come forward, please.”
As Jason received the trophy, his team mates pounded the ice with their sticks. Speech…speech…” they chanted.
Jason smiled and set his trophy on the ice. He stepped up to the microphone and pulled an envelope from his pocket.
“Tonight is a special night indeed,” he began, “ten years ago I was privileged to meet a very special lady who took me into her home and treated me as her son. She gave me the opportunity to play hockey and somehow always found the money to ensure I could continue on. At the Junior “A” level, while others had to look for personal sponsors, she dug into her wallet and came up with the funds.
“Over the years I’ve listened to the snickers from other teams when they read “Grandma D” on my shirt, but I just smile, knowing they really don’t understand.
“But, it didn’t stop at the monetary giving; Grandma “D” has not missed one of my games. Even now, afflicted with arthritis, she is here, bundled beneath her blanket. She is my biggest fan––my greatest mentor!
“Tonight, I pay tribute to her, for it is she who truly deserves to be honoured.” Jason motioned to his team-mates and they began skating toward Grandma “D.” They gathered around, lifted her up, and skated over to Jason.
Father McNab came in, carrying a picture of Jason, in full uniform, standing with Grandma “D.” The crowd stood to their feet and began to chant: “She is the champion…”
Tears ran down Grandma “D”’s cheeks. Jason handed her the picture. Her hands shook as she read the inscription:
Grandma “D”––I will never be able to re-pay you for all you have done for me. I thank you for the respect you gave me when I first came to your home, because in that giving you taught me to respect myself and others. In return, I have been respected among my peers and have excelled beyond my childhood imaginations! Love for eternity––Jason
Grandma “D” looked up. She raised the picture for all to see. The hockey players skated around the arena, Jason leading the way, skating backwards so he would not miss a moment of the joyous expression upon her face. Having gone full circle, the team stopped at the main exit.
Jason reached out his arms, into which his team-mates gently placed Grandma “D.” He leaned over and whispered: “Let’s go home.”
She glanced into his misty eyes, smiled and said: “Let’s,” as she reached up a knurled finger and wiped the tears from his cheeks.