After we cleaned out my father’s house I became the de facto keeper of papers. Mainly because I have them, and room to store them. I also volunteered to scan all the pictures that we found around the house – hundreds of family pictures, slides. We found, in a bag, the things my father had kept after cleaning out his mother’s house. In that bag was a scrapbook that my Granny (born in 1899) made as a teenager. This scrapbook has photos she took and captions she wrote between 1914 and 1918.
As she grows older and the years change more and more boys in uniform show up in her album, and on one caption she writes the names of the four boys and “all are soldiers now.”
I can’t imagine how many friends she must have lost.
I have more of an idea of how many comrades my grandfather lost – he and his younger brother were the only ones in their regiment to survive World War I. I took my daughter to the War Museum and we saw a wall of lights, with each representing a man lost on Vimy Ridge. My grandfather and his brother both survived that fight, and the war. Against the odds.
My Gramps, one of the grandparents I actually got to grow up knowing, spent World War II on ships.
I went out whale watching in the Atlantic, off Newfoundland once. There was a point at which we could no longer see land, it was just ocean all around us. I cannot imagine spending five years that way. I cannot imagine spending five years that way knowing that your two younger brothers are out there in the fight too.
I took my daughter to the War Museum because I want her to begin to understand. I want her to know what her ancestors did, what Canadian soldiers are still fighting for, as hard as it can be to understand. It’s not easy to explain, it shouldn’t be.