It was called the war to end all wars; the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month commemorating it. Yet, 21 years later, it re-ignited to lay waste to Europe again. Again, it was the war to end all wars. When it was over, my father barely survived — an orphan without a family, without a country, with horror for memories. Yet somehow, in spite of it all, he had the presence to bring himself, his wife and son to the sanctuary called Canada.
And, I have grown up without war, without horror, but also without half my family. As I read the newspaper each morning, I am struck that everywhere, we are participating in yet more war, and if anything, we are more addicted to the rhetoric and killing than ever. Our soldiers die in far off lands and families there and here suffer and shed tears. Ever has it been thus; more wars, more tears, more rhetoric, more propaganda where the truth becomes as shredded as the bodies of the people that war rips apart.
I remember my father trying to forget, silently glimpsing in his mind’s eye what he didn’t want me to experience. The shadow of the Second World War never left my father, never gave him a single moment’s peace in the years after the war had officially ended. No father, no mother, no sisters, no brothers came to visit him, share a chat, reminisce, light a cigarette, smile, or while away the moments. The dead only visit to share tears in memory. Every thought of them must have cut him. His life became one of just tomorrows. Remembrance and yesterdays were banished and he rarely spoke of them.
I wonder at the young men who come from the devastated countries to our fair shores for solace, like my father did so long ago. Those men, who have lost everything except their own lives, who cannot look back and remember, because remembrance crushes them and tears at them without mercy.
My father has since passed, but even so, I will remember for him. I will imagine the days when there was peace and he was a young boy in a land not yet fractured and turned into a graveyard. I will remember smiles, family and happiness, because he could not look back without pain and tears.
And maybe some time in the not too distant future, sons won’t have to remember for fathers.
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