Remember the Fallen


In Canada and many countries around the world November 11th is a day to remember those who have fallen in wartime.

Personally I cannot imagine living through the carnage that is witnessed during combat.  I think about my grandfather and father.  Both served.  My grandfather during World War 1 and my father during World War 2.

I didn’t know my grandfather very well. He passed away when I was just six years old.  And in truth, I didn’t know my father very well either.  I don’t know the man he was prior to going to war, or should I say boy.  He was just eighteen years old when he signed up.  I do know the man he became.

He wasn’t a very kind man.  In fact, he could be incredibly cruel and abusive.  Still, there were times when I glimpsed a man who could make so many laugh, who had charm and ready smile.

He never talked about the war.  That was a topic never open to discussion.  There were many times when he would have a look in his eyes that was terrifying.  It was feral and cold in nature.  Anger would take hold and it was as if all that made him human simply drained away.

I have often wondered if this behavior resulted from his time in the war.

Perhaps I was looking for an excuse to explain the punishments that seems to always be so extreme.  My young mind couldn’t comprehend that he was just like this or that I was go God awful that the beatings were warranted.

After all, my entire family suffered at his hands in some manner.

Always on this day I reflect on those who have fallen. Thinking about the wars that have been waged and that so many young men and women still to this day are subject  to the darkest and most vial side of humanity.

I asked my dad once, and only once, if he had killed anyone in the war.  Seems a silly question.  I was thirteen or fourteen at the time.  Not sure why that question slipped from my lips.

He didn’t answer.  The coldness in his eyes and the change in his demeanor told me that he had.  Whatever demons he inherited during wartime stayed with him all the days of his life there after and died with him.

And I will never know if he was like that because of war.

Many men came home and were able, to some degree, to put it behind them and carry on to become loving husbands and fathers.

I hope that we will one day learn to resolve our issues without the use of force or weapons.  Perhaps if we could just understand that we do not own this planet. We never will.  We simply inhabit it, as millions of other life forms do, and we have a responsibility to respect and preserve this home of ours.

Fighting over land, resources, technology, etc. that are being pillaged at a disgusting rate seems barbaric at times.  Yet our appetite and consumption of these resources seems to fuel this ideology.  We have the technology to create clean energy and develop a sustainable resource base.

Many of you are just as aware of this as I am so I won’t dwell on this topic today.

I just hope that there will come a time when we can learn the lessons from the sacrifice of the fallen and live in peace.

They fought for freedom, for choice, for democracy, for a life full of possibilities.

I will not forget.  And I will try to honour their sacrifice by living my life with open and loving heart.

Peace.

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Rites of Passage


I woke this morning with these thoughts running through my head and bathed in the now familiar sweat (a.k.a. a hot flash).  Our rites of passage as we move through this life. Each moment and event culminating to build a story that will relay the living of it.  Depending on who you ask, it may be viewed differently to others than the person writing the pages of it.

I have had a fabulous weekend thus far.  It is a long weekend here in Canada as yesterday we paid homage to those who have died in war in defense of our country and to those who have served and continue to do so and survived.  I always wonder what my father was like before the war.  I wonder if the horrors that he witnessed forever changed him.  Is this the reason he was so abusive toward his family?  That died with him.

He never spoke of his time in the war.  The only time really that he did speak of it was when he was completely inebriated and so far into his cups that he couldn’t see straight.  Then sometimes the utterances, while they may have sounded non-sensical in their delivery, came out something like this.

“Fuck Dave I don’t mind telling you I’m looking forward to a home cooked meal and a warm body.”

“Yeah, I am with ya on that one Jackie boy.  I am with ya on that.”  He would then make the sound of gunfire.

“Fuck I hate this, fuck I hate this.  You okay Dave?”

Nothing.

“Dave? Holy fuck…”

“You stupid bastard!  Why the hell didn’t you get down?  Look at you?  What woman is gonna want you with your head blown off.  You stupid bastard.”

At times he would then cry.

When first I heard this drunken monologue, I was about 13 years old.  It gave me some insight into this man.  The following day he was working on the car and I was watching him.  I decided to ask him about this.

“Hey dad, last night you were talking about a guy named Dave from the war.  Did you see him get killed?” I asked this in a rather tentative and nervous manner.  He looked at me and his eyes hardened immediately.

“Shut the fuck up about it.” he instructed.

“But I just thought….”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GET THE FUCK OUT!”

There would be no discussion on this.  If he was sober, it was not an area that could or should be mentioned.  I did find at times though I could have brief conversations on these matters while he was in a drunken stupor, but then you walked a fine line with that one too.  You never really wanted to awaken the beast in that state as things could get ugly.

And has life continued to unfold in its somewhat strange fashion at times, during Remembrance Day I would always ask myself the question, ‘What was he like before the war?’

In my father’s youth I believe that war was romanticized to some degree.   I think those young men and women who left to defend all that we hold dear might well have been a little idealistic at first.  I don’t know.  I am only speculating at this point.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like to kill someone for the first time.

But in war this is what happens.

Yesterday I was down at Sunset Beach with my daughter during the moment of silence.  I gazed across the water with the familiar questions now playing through my head once more.  Always the questions about this stranger who was my father.  I never really got to know the man.  That was never open to us. Just every once in a while we caught a glimpse inside.

When I had my daughter, I promised to do all the things for her that were not afforded to me in my youth.  So as the moment passed and I offered a salute to all those who have passed in wartime, my daughter and I set out on a hike.  The day was overcast and it rained in the end, but we went on a good 6 KM hike through Stanley Park then found a restaurant and had breakfast.

My daughter knows me very well, and as she has grown from child to woman, we have developed a very deep bond.  There is also a friendship that both of us hold in the highest regards.

It’s sad that my father was not able to open himself to love and that he could not find it in his heart to accept forgiveness.  But he gave me the gift of life and for that I will always be grateful.  I hope that in death he has found some measure of peace and all that haunted him during his lifetime has been laid to rest.

The legacy I want to leave when I pass from this world can be summed up simply.  I want to leave a mark of gentle kindness, hope and love.  If I can do this, then I will have lived my life to the highest expectations that I can think of.

I pray that there will come a time when wars are no longer necessary.  And on that note I will close this commentary.  Enjoy your day everyone.

Peace out.