This is my thinking day. I had the chance to work for time and a half, I declined. The backlog will be waiting for me on Monday. Today, November 11, is a day to be quiet and think. I think about lots of things on this day, every year.
I am a granddaughter of WWII. I think of my grandparents today. They are no longer here with us in body, but my memories of them will never fade. They lived the war. . they survived and I am alive now because they lived. My grandfather was a soldier. . he fought for the liberation of Holland. He shook Eisenhower's hand when he departed for Europe and he listened to a pep talk for the 20,000 troops aboard his ship home, from none other than Churchill himself. He witnessed things that he wouldn't tell us. In my later years my grandmother told me the 2 reasons for his discharge from duty: 1. A large chunk of his leg was claimed by shrapnel. The crater left had not escaped my notice. When i was a little girl I remember asking : "Bop, what happened to your leg?" I don't exactly remember his reply, i think it was something like 'Oh, that's just a souvenir from the war.' He brushed it off. It always bothered me to see it, even though he tried to make light of it. 2. His fox hole partner was decapitated. When I heard about that, i tried to imagine what it must have been like for my grandfather to be hunkered down in that hole with his partner. I wondered what their particular job at that time was, what weapons they may have had. I wondered what they talked about. I wondered how nervous and afraid they were as they heard the sounds of war all around them. Of course I wondered how horrible it was in that dreadful moment and in the moments that involved my grandfather exiting that hole in the ground, leaving his partner and running for cover and sustaining his own wound. All these things I have to imagine, because these things were too painful for him to tell us. My grandmother didn't elaborate very much. I think it bothered her too to talk about it in any great detail. I wish I had asked more. I wish that now. . . as a middle aged woman, I wish that i could ask them so much. It saddens me to realize that I only knew a really small part of who they were.
For me, Remembrance Day, well its all about WWII, because I have a personal connection to it. My grandparents lived it, their children lived in the shadow of it, and I lived in the clear. My husband too, has this experience - being a child whose family lived through this war. His Opa dying in a Japanese-run labour camp, his Oma and his mother and uncles all separated, interred in several Japanese P.O.W. camps in Indonesia. How traumatic, how difficult, how strong they had to become to survive.
Rob and I have an intense shared "generational' thing. We are from the same generation, our families were war families. We have this need to stay connected to this time in history, i think because its part of our families' legacy and experience. Some of our favourite things to do involves checking out museums, historical sites on our travels, watching documentaries, movies. We have a huge interest in aviation history. . . which is something we both just seem to love so much. . and now our little grandson seems also to share this love. One of our favourite family places is the "Warplane Heritage Museum" in Hamilton, Ontario. *see link below* . Here you can climb into the cockpits of these vintage planes and imagine for yourself what it must have been like for the pilots and crew. On our last visit i even got to work the tail flaps and move the stick of the CF100 fighter. I felt the claustrophobia as the volunteer slid the canopy over my head. Everything's so close in that cockpit. The gauges and buttons, wow. . I really recommend this place to anyone who has an interest, or would like to cultivate one. The Lancaster bomber seems to have this special allure for our grandson, James. I have to admit, we also do find it quite special. You will see 1 of only 2 flying Lancs in the WORLD at the Hamilton museum. (I've had the privilege of sitting in one of the bomb crew's seats in the Lanc. . and it was something else. . my imagination was just running wild being in there.
Here are some links for some of the places we have visited, and wish to visit in the near future:
http://comdir.bfree.on.ca/cmhm/index2.html Canadian Military Heritage Museum
http://www.warplane.com The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario
http://www.aviation.technomuses.ca The Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa, Ontario
http://www.warmuseum.ca Canadian War Museum Ottawa, Ontario
http://www.lancastermuseum.ca The Lancaster Museum - Nanton, Alberta
And here's a link to the WarAmps of Canada. . which has a fantastic video and DVD series called "NEVER AGAIN!". I have watched a marathon of these videos today on TV. They are very well done.
http://www.waramps.ca WarAmps Canada
I watched the ceremonies televised from our nation's capital this morning. A recent mini trip of ours to Ottawa this past spring made it so real, to see the cenotaph again, the tomb of the unknown soldier, the gigantic, statuesque monument to the great wars. The 2 minutes of silence was preceded by howitzer blasts, "The Last Post" and was followed by more canon blasts and "Reveille". The symbolic guards at the compass points of the monument seemed almost like statues. The faces of the assembled veterans. . . every line and wrinkle earned, their eyes communicating the memories turbulence and trauma that was uniquely theirs. . . haunting to see. I watched the laying of the commemorative wreaths from every conceivable people group in this land and the embassies of many others. . . I was struck by the importance of ceremony, remembrance, symbols, gatherings, parades. People need this. I watched the veterans' parade with gratitude and emotion. The salutes, the allegiance to flag and regiment, the purpose, the pride. I witnessed the Harvards fly by. . . 1 plane peeling off from the others, symbolizing those who were lost. What a day this has been. Solitary reflection and lots of remembering.