I remember sitting at the feet of my grandfather. I was probably 4. I remember running my fingers over the strange designs I found covering the speaker of his big wooden radio. We sat there, listening to the hockey game, sharing a mutual contentment. I will never forget.
Now that my grandfather has passed on I have learned something new about those days. His grandkids were one of his few sources of contentment. Although he was a very happy and very friendly guy before WWII, he came out of it a very different person, and very unhappy.
WWII changed him. He was certainly one of the lucky ones, but he paid a high price. He was never the same (so I’m told), living the rest of his life as the new man he had become.
WWII changed his family, too. He probably had PTSD in a world that didn’t recognize PTSD. I can’t say for certain that he had it, of course, since there was no diagnosis, but the stories seem to suggest it’s true. His family, my dad and his siblings, paid part of the toll for WWII.
My last memory of my grandfather is a phone call. He did most of the talking, trying to get me to react to his words. He left me with a request, “Please call me.” “I don’t know what to say on the phone,” was my reply. “It doesn’t matter, I’ll do the talking, you just call.” A lump develops in my throat as I remember and wish I could call him on the phone today. Instead, I’m very happy to wear a poppy and stand in silence to remember him and his life changing sacrifice.
John 15:13 reads, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Today, I honour the high cost of friendship paid by my grandfather, my family before me, and all of the other men and women who demonstrated the greatest gift of friendship to generations they would never meet.
I will never forget.