Friday, November 9, 2012

Remembrances


Recently Pam let me know of a site she’d just heard about called Storylane, “People Sharing Things That Matter”.  So I had a look, liked what I saw and have decided to give it a try.  I copied a handful of this blog’s posts there, but have also added three short articles of my own.   The most recent was on Wednesday and deals with my feelings on Remembrance Day.    Having received a great deal of encouraging feedback, I decided to re-post it here with some additional comments at the end.
   
November 11 – Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day – whatever you call it, for me it holds deep and very emotional feelings.  My father served as an artillery gunner in WWII, posted overseas from his birthplace of St. Catharines, Ontario to England and then into Italy and Northern Africa.  Each year as I see the rolls of proud service people grow ever smaller I find I cannot control the tears.  Tears for a time in history that was unique, tears for sacrifices made and lives lost and perhaps in a way, tears for a time of innocence, ironically, lost forever.  I was born a decade after the war ended, but its stories as retold by my parents have made it a vivid and entrenched part of who I am.

Fiercely Canadian and proud of it, my father enlisted within days of war being declared that September of 1939. Did he have any idea of what he was facing – that the struggle would last almost 6 years?  In hindsight the stories he told, within children’s inquisitive hearing, were mainly of humourous events and the camaraderie enjoyed.  No doubt, that only scratched the surface of what his memories held. The demons were there and mostly held at bay over the years.   But I remember my paternal grandmother saying that her “boys” (three in all) were never the same after they came home from war. Two served in World War II and the youngest in Korea.

Probably the most relevant and endearing story of that time is how he and my mother met.  Katie was a very independent and single, bank teller living in London with her widowed mother.  When the call came to offer billets and friendships for newly arrived Canadian soldiers the two women readily agreed to do their part for the war effort.  The fact they would have trained and brave Canadian soldiers in the home surely had nothing to do with their offer of accommodation.

The afternoon arrived for their first meeting and my mother and grandmother prepared to welcome my father, Ralph, and his soldier friend into their home where all was set for afternoon tea.  No sooner had introductions been made than the all too familiar whistle of a falling bomb was heard.  Taking it in stride the women were relatively nonchalant and prepared for the ensuing explosion.  When the dust settled the brave Canadian soldiers had disappeared, only to sheepishly emerge a few moments later from underneath the dining room table.   Brave soldiers indeed!   Fortunately Katie and Ralph got past that awkward moment to begin a relationship that led to marriage after the war and life for my mother here in Canada. But that’s a story for another day.

Both have passed on now and some days, especially at this time of year, it would be wonderful to hear their voices again and listen even more attentively to their stories and the unspoken words between the lines of those days.

I wear the red poppy with pride, and even if I lose a dozen of them over the next few days, I’ll never begrudge dropping coins into the box held by a veteran or other representative of the Royal Canadian Legion – its but a very small homage to my parents and others of their generation for putting their lives on hold so that my generation could have a life of relative peace.  Likewise I offer my full support and thanks to our service people of today and agree with the bumper sticker – “If you don’t want to stand behind our forces, feel free to stand in front of them.”

To all of you I say Thank You and God Bless.

Then I provided the link to a small circle of family and friends, and of course posted it on Facebook.   Last night when I logged on to my email, there was the most amazing message in reply from my oldest son with his own comments and feelings and to be truthful it made me cry.  Tears of a very proud mother that her son “gets it”….. and his regret at not hearing the stories from his grandparents.  My parents would be so incredibly proud of him.

Others on Facebook today are posting their thoughts on this solemn day of remembering.  One status update reads:  I caught part of comments on a radio station yesterday which disturbed/infuriated me. They were relaying sentiments of a pocket of individuals who wish to sanitize Remembrance Day and not focus on war or the sacrifice that was made by men and women during both World Wars in either serving or the ultimate giving of their lives. 

Wake up people!! The sense of freedom we enjoy today is a direct result of the countless people who laid down their lives in those wars and that price continues to be paid even today!!

I will be remembering those who served/died in the wars and want to thank the men and women in our armed forces who are serving today. As the saying goes, if you don't support our troops ... feel free to stand in front of them!!!

So while my post here today has nothing directly to do with Jamie Tremain, or writing and reading – indirectly it does.  Because perhaps without the sacrifices made in the past and ongoing today, we might not have the freedom to blog, post, or surf the world with such liberty.  And history teaches that if we don’t remember the past we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes – what we have is precious and fragile.  Thank a vet, wear a poppy, remember -  and beware the dangers of apathy.

Thank you, Dad, Uncle John and Uncle Bruce and all your comrades - past and present.

Liz




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