It’s ironic that today I remember my Papa for something he wanted to forget.
Every year around this time, until his death in 2006, he used to make his way down to the Pier legion for the ceremonies. But at home he almost never talked about the war. Except to say “there were things I don’t want to remember.”
He thought war was a racket — a way to keep the economy going. If he’d lived a few more years, he’d have predicted that the only way out of the global economic crisis was war. Then he would have added: “Mark my words.”
His medals weren’t hidden away, but they weren’t on display either.
Much of Papa’s time was spent in Italy. My dad remembers him talking once about moving through Italy until things were secure. Then his company got a leave and they all went to Rome and saw Pius XII. When my dad first met a pope, and then when I did (John Paul II on a trip to Rome when I was 11), Papa reminded us that he’d beaten us to it.
His army buddies threw him into a huge water cistern once. He almost drowned. They thought he could swim because he was from Cape Breton and lived near the ocean.
He did talk a little about the challenges of feeding so many troops. And, although he never had a driver’s licence at home, about the trucks in Italy and the difficulty of keeping them going under such circumstances.
On more than one occasion (usually very late, after he’d had a couple), he’d reminisce about good times in an Italian village that had been liberated. About local people feeding troops at their homes. About parties in town squares.
Then he’d remember one of his friends, who didn’t come home, and he’d drift off.
Lest he remember. Lest we forget.
Remembrance Day, November 11th, 2012.