I bid my dad another farewell yesterday – decision I’ve dragged my feet on. I’ve donated his power wheelchair to Easter Seals. They have a waiting list of people needing chairs, people who can’t afford it. His chair will continue to serve.
Another memory of loss today – not something forgotten, but something that caught me off-guard first thing, as I scanned my computer screen for tasks and reminders.
Readers of this column may recall the death of my friend Gary last January. Gary’s birthday, November 11th. Auspicious birthdate. Reminder in my computer calendar, to call, to wish him happy birthday as I’ve done every year for so many years . . .
This morning I can’t call my dad, can’t talk to him about Remembrance Day. Can’t call Gary to wish him a happy birthday.
I walked into that bathroom, where wheelchair had been parked since March. I looked at my computer screen – an entry says ‘call Gary, wish him happy birthday’.
I miss them both. On this day when poppies are worn and old poems recited – when we remember young men and women who put their lives on the line, those who lived and those who perished in battle – and we say, LEST WE FORGET.
How could anyone forget?
Recalling a birthday requires a reminder note, because I’m not so good at remembering those things. But how could I forget my young friend. He wasn’t young when he died, but I remember him young. I remember when we both were young. We were impervious to harm, wide-eyed optimists with hopes and dreams. Without fear.
This day, for mourning losses.
Who doesn’t remember? Anniversary of first Armistice Day (signing the Treaty of Versailles didn’t happen until June 28, 1919 – five years to the day from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) in 1918, eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – when ‘war to end all wars’ ended.
It didn’t. Not to say it was ‘just another war’, but over time they all seem to litter history book pages the same way, paragraphs telling how it started, when it ended, and how much carnage, how many dead. Displaced. Destroyed.
Commemorations of wars, of wars ending and never-ending memory of blood spilled, lives lost and families destroyed by shrapnel and hate.
Today – two more for me to mourn, revere, make sure I never forget.
Two firsts, two people I am without on this day for the first time …
My dad was in World War II; never saw action, but he might have. He lied about his age, signed up, risky youthful bravado to put himself in harm’s way. He fixed airplanes on this side of the Atlantic. He played cards. He was a marksman and part of the precision drill squad. He marched. He shined his shoes. He came home alive and well, when so many thousands did not. Ribbons, medals – in a box.
A day for celebrating youth and bravery, for celebrating joy, celebrating absence of fear and celebrating memories.
… lest we ever forget.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: -6C/-15F. gusty north wind – Gusta loved it. I was chilled thoroughly but comforted by my knowledge I’ll be in a warmer place soon. Gusta will head to the kennel today, and I’ll be packing for an early flight tomorrow!
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