I hate this time of year. It was this time of year that my parents died, a year apart. It’s in these weeks that the leaves on the ground are getting to that crispy stage where jumping into piles of them isn’t a hell of lot of fun anymore. You can feel the autumn air taking a deep breath before the fury of winter blasts away our sandals and t-shirts.
It usually rains or snows on Remembrance Day. It seems to be a tradition for the earth to share our sense of loss over those who gave their lives for something they believed in…a state of mind that I’m seeing less and less over half a century since the last big war. But I won’t get into that now. It’s Remembrance Day, a time to remember.
It didn’t snow or rain today. It was cool, but mostly a crispy autumn day (though I could still feel the air taking that deep breath) and, strangely, this year I wasn’t preoccupied with the loss of my parents. Right, my parents.
Want to hear a romantic war story?
Too bad…I’m telling it anyway.
My parents were childhood sweethearts. They practically grew up together and they were always together…until the war came along. They both joined up. Dad went to Europe and Mom went to Ottawa. Dad went from France to Africa to Italy. Mom stayed in Ottawa where she had to send out telegraphs to parents whose worst hell was receiving those messages.
Dad was shot in the leg in Italy. On the other side of the world, Mom was asleep. She had a nightmare. She dreamed that Dad was shot in the leg at the exact time he was shot in the leg. After the war she described the setting where he was shot as though she had been there. She had it right down to the types of light. This kind of thing runs in my family.
But that’s not the end of the story. Now, we switch from romance to humor. Want to hear some humor?
“Of course they do,” said the fox. “That’s the only reason the two of them come here.”
Sometimes the fox can be annoying.
As I said, Mom was in Ottawa sending out the telegraphs when she received the notice that her fiancé had been shot in the leg. She wasn’t going to send a telegraph to her future in-laws, and I’m not even sure if they sent out the notices for non-fatal wounds. She wanted to phone them. BTW, she’d just been promoted to sergeant that day. When she reached for the phone, after mentioning to the WAC beside her what she was going to do, a captain told her she wasn’t allowed to make the call. It was against protocol. That wasn’t going to stop Mom, though. The captain tried to grab the phone away from her and Mom clocked her a good one that knocked her off her feet.
Long story short…she was back to being a corporal by the time the war ended.
Meanwhile, back in Italy, Dad was in a field hospital, wounded after being in the war for a couple of years…when he received his draft notice.
He was a couple of years under age when he’d joined up.
I think this is the part that we lose over time when we remember those who gave their lives for something they believed in…they had stories beyond the headstones, the wreaths, the crosses and the poppies.
They had stories.
And did I say I wasn’t preoccupied with my parents this year?