I often struggle to find adequate or meaningful words on Remembrance Day, a cohesive train of thought. Instead, I will share a few anecdotes that I believe will do my intent better justice.
A Story: When I was little, I was fortunate enough to know two of my great-grandparents. My great-grandpoppy, as I called him, lived with my grandparents. He was a quiet man of few words, but six year-old me knew the following to be true on each visit: 1) there would be Sweet Tarts candies in the basket of the silver donkey statue on the shelf in the dining room; and 2) that I would find him in his room, making collages from painted popsicle sticks and nature photos, usually birds.
Being a small child, nothing seemed unusual about this. I enjoyed the routine: me with my candies, watching and commenting on his creations; he speaking softly, if at all, carefully gluing and cutting. Perhaps it was the noise of a chaotic home that left me happy to sit in relative solitude. I simply knew that I would always have candy for me, and he would have his pictures. My memories are hazy of this time, but when I think of him, I see eagles and that donkey of candy.
When he passed away in 1988, I was given the donkey. It holds little treasures on my fridge now.
Another Story: I once overheard a discussion I was likely not intended to hear. I can’t remember the origin of the train of thought, but my family came around to recollecting a time when they had attempted to trace our family tree on that side of the family. The proceedings were halted by the researcher, who expressed to my grandfather that certain people in Germany were asking who wanted to know this information, and where they lived. My great-grandpoppy was a spy for the British during a World War (it was never clear which one, or both; no one talks of it). He had perhaps even been captured and escaped.
My mother told me, when I expressed a desire to visit Germany after taking the language at age 15, that I might not be safe to enter the country with her maiden name on my identification.
A Final Story: Today, the announcements chimed at work, informing all of us in X corporate tower that a minute of silence would be observed for Remembrance Day. Of five people in the office (all of whom work with three veterans on our staff), I was the only one who immediately stopped working and sat motionless for that minute.
Sixty seconds is not a lot to ask of us when I think now of my great-grandpoppy and how perhaps his endless collages were a sign of a mind struggling to cope with things he would simply never speak of. Sixty seconds is not a long time to pause and think of those conscripted into war, of those who were young and scared, or older and well aware of the realities. I’m not a fan of war and have many issues with many actions taken by the military. I can hate the war, hate the generals who endorse it. But the troops who enlist, be it with good intentions or a poverty-motivated desire to get an education, I do not hate.
Because of veterans, we have democracy. They gave us the right to slag the military or praise it, wear a poppy of red or make assertions that a colour change should be considered. Because of them, we have the ability to choose to not participate in that minute of silence and it is for that reason that we should pause and reflect.
Typically, I choose one song; today, I’ve chosen two. One, I dedicate to those who’ve never served; the other, for those who have.
Lest We Forget.
Remembrance Day – The Claytones
A Silent Army In The Trees – Matthew Good