Saturday, November 11, 2006

Peace


My father was drunk the night he meet my mother. He was an officer stationed in Brandon, Manitoba during World War II. The day he heard the news that two of his brothers, both of them pilots, were M.I.A, he pleaded with his commanding officer to go to Europe, to the front. He had the crazy idea that he could find them. His commanding officer refused the request.

At an army dance that night, my father tied one on. He was navigating a treacherous piece of heaving floor when he saw the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen in his life talking on a pay phone. That’s how he described her – after he got past the habit of telling my brother and me that he’d rescued my mother in a train station after overhearing her ask for a ticket to the Old Maid’s Home.

The happy ending was that he married the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Uncle Stan came home alive and well. The sad part is that my Uncle Eddie didn’t come home at all.

My father denied this ever happened, But I came home one afternoon when I was only four or five and my father was sitting in our big green armchair, crying. My mother was perched on one arm of the chair with her arms around him. “Your father is sad about your Uncle Eddie dying in the war,” she said, "Sometimes it's good to have a cry." I remember this clearly because my father, as far as I knew then, never cried.

In a good-looking family, he was the youngest and most handsome, the one, my father said, every girl in town dreamed about. I could believe it when my father showed me the photographs. Dad said he was sweet tempered, too and easy to love. If my father was 21 or 22 when he enlisted, and Eddie was younger, then how young was he when he died in a sky over Europe?

Much later in life, as dementia began to claim my father’s mind and shortly before he died, his wife told me that he’d get up every morning very early and creep around the house trying to be quiet. “He thinks he’s been sleeping beside Eddie every night, and he doesn’t want to make noise and wake him up.” They’d bunked that way as kids – on a poor prairie farm there were only so many blankets and an excess of cold.

When I heard about Eddie’s reappearance, I thought the veil gets thinner at the end. I knew my father would die soon and my sense was that Eddie’s presence was a kind of reassurance. I didn’t for a moment think he was imagined, or a product of the dementia or dreamed. If it’s my imagination, that’s all right. My truth doesn’t have to be the truth, or anyone else’s truth.

So this Remembrance day, I send my love to my Uncle Eddie. I send love to Randy in Missouri who, in one short ride to and from a prison visit, shared feelings about Vietnam I don't think he'd ever shared with anyone and touched my heart. I send love to George Fowler from Connecticut – whom I knew before the war and saw between tours of duty in Nam and who I searched for many times over the years afterwards but could never find, and to all the men and women the world over dying bravely and honorably in wars that, no matter how just or not the cause, have never, in the end, brought us peace. May you all have peace and joy now. May there be an end to war.

8 comments:

zhoen said...

To Wesley Taylor, who survived Vietnam, and gave me his combat medal when I was sent to Gulf War I, with the instructions that I had to bring it back to him.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is beautiful, sad, haunting and truthful, LJ. Thank you.

beadbabe49 said...

amen...

Jess D'Zerts said...

Beautifully said, LJ.

LJ said...

Zhoen. I'm so glad you could keep that promise and thank you for sharing that memory.
Thanks, BB, KD, and Jess. I started thinking after reading Herhimnbyrn's links. One of them was to "In Flanders Fields." I nearly burst into tears.
When I was in grade school, Canadian kids all learned that poem by heart and I still remember the teacher explaining about opium coming from poppies - so that we'd understand the line, "we will not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders Field." The poem choked me up as a little kid and still does.
One day, I'll write about Randy in Missouri and George Fowler but yesterday, it was enough to think of them.
And Herhimnbryn...I tried to comment at Secret Hill. I wanted to thank you for the beautiful links, but blogger kept not publishing and apologizing and telling me they were working on the problem. Again. So, if you drop by, thank you.

herhimnbryn said...

lj. Thankyou for such a moving post. So personal and heart-felt. I am glad you followed the links and found the poem again.

Wenda at 'Daring to write" said something about grieving 'at a cellular level' for her relative who died in WWI. I said in my comment to her, that her Uncle will never be forgotten, all the while she remembers him.....likewise your uncle too.

Mary said...

Beautiful.

My father was in Normandy in 1944. In the second wave because he'd been unwell in June. If he hadn't been sick there might have been a different outcome.

He would rarely talk about what he saw in France. Didn't do any of the reunions. Hated all that. Just once when I was due to visit Normandy in the 1980s he told me a little of the devastation and destruction that he had seen.

You're right. We should remember.

Avus said...

LJ - a belated thank you for this wonderful post. I found you through HHnB's link on my post (The "Flanders Fields" one).
Although this is written on 6th December, no matter. Such remembrance should always be there, ready to surface and to honour those who fell, dead or wounded, in all wars.