November 11, 2009
As you know it is remembrance day today. The end of WWI. Although you fought in WWII, you never let a year pass without reminding us all of the Poppy Appeal. How you, and your brave compatriots fought for our country and future. It used to bore some family members, you know, banging on about the war, blah, blah, blah. But I was fascinated at some of the life stories you told. At times I found it hard to believe it was real, but as I grew it all came about before my eyes in books, documentaries and films. Devastating. Horrifying. It never left you. Especially your POW years.
Remember, Dad, when Ross had his Primary 7, WW2 project to do and he won a book token for the best one? It included the drawing he made of the dragon tattoo you had inked on your forearm while in France. And that wonderful interview he had with you about bombs and bombing? Then the way you recited off your army name and number effortlessly, as if it was fresh off the tongue!! You also learned him a few 'choice' words in German! I think 'Schwein-Hund' was the mildest one! Those didn't go in the project folder but among his bibliography source reference page, he'd included in huge letters: MY GRAMPA.
I still and will always remind the boys that you were the only one of 5 friends to return home to your little village after the war. Right to your dying day this still hurt you as you felt so guilty meeting the families of your dead friends once Hitler was put in his place. God spared you though, Dad. And I'll be eternally grateful for that, because you were a gem of a man. The most patient, funny, selfless man I knew. Heaven knows how you put up with Mam all those years - but you believed in unity no matter how bad things got.
My very fondest memories of you was when we watched Danny Kaye films together. We knew every song from Hans Christian Anderson and the one we loved best was 'Inchworm'. Your wee twin girls, Ellie and Migi, as we were nicknamed by you, would sing the 'sums' bit in the background while you sang the lyrics. Your voice had a beautiful tone to it. Of course and ironically, you're favourite song from a musical was supposedly Hitler's favourite, too. Edelweiss. I still can't listen to that without crying. Anybody's version. Daft old sop that I am!
As I grew I loved you best after you'd had a few nips. Your quick wit and patter after a swally was so enchanting and you were a bit of an auld rascal- weren't you? Remember when Migi visited from London with her snooty husband, when her kids and mine were small? How you sighed through every karaoke song until the whisky kicked in and then you took the mic away and got my little ones to sing Irvin Berlin's 'At The Devil's Ball......?' Remember how mortified he was when you changed some of the words? Of course the kiddies didn't have a clue what it all meant but the rest of us got a laugh at it! That was ma Dad.....
Then there was the last ever Christmas you spent with us! Remember that nosy neighbour of mine who just wouldn't bugger off with her son on Xmas Eve? Yapping and yapping. You were getting fed up listening to her 'drivel' and when she mentioned her dad had just had hip-replacement surgery you asked her loudly....."So whose hip did he get?" And Trevor struggled to keep his laugh in? She left soon after that. You old scamp!.... And don't worry Dad - we'll each keep pouring you a mini-whisky every New Year on your resting place - even if it does kill the grass! I smile at the vision of all those empty miniature Bells bottles that the green-keeper has to tidy away each New Year and Father's Days. I could carry on forever here but sadly, I can't.
Dad you were the best of old buddies. I can remember how you'd bend down, creaking your old bones to tie a kid's shoe lace in case they tripped. You were forever checking the boys. And your parting words every time we left the house was "mind the roads". Since I was a nipper.
The biggest regret in my life was that you never got the chance to see my boys play in their bands. Dad, you were a musical genius. Remember when you learned me to play The Blue Danube with you on the piano? Well, I can still do that - but it doesn't sound the same without you on the chords! You could play any instrument by ear and always encouraged the boys to do the same - lift it and give it a try. Of course, they weren't as gifted as you, but boy did they learn fast! They had rhythm all right! It was in their blood, their Grampa's blood. Thank you so much, Dad.
I'm saying goodbye with a picture of you with your army friends. Ted, Willie and Jim. How that guitar suits you! You guys really cheered the troops up! And this has been a remembrance day for me, too. But it's dedicated to only one hero.