I'm amazed at how much I continue to learn about my parents over the years. Just a few months ago, my dad and I were talking about his somewhat nomadic life, moving from the family homestead in Markdale, Ontario out to Ajax, Mildmay and Toronto. It was during the Depression so my grandfather went where there was work and that meant renting out the family home and renting digs in some remote city.
Remote is relative when you come from a small Ontario town, population 999, where everyone knows what you've done or not done even before you reach your back porch. My grandmother was a telephone switchboard operator; my grandfather worked in many jobs - co-owner of a hardware store and civil servant among them. He also worked at the artillery plant in Ajax, Ontario during World War II where he, my grandfather and my then-young father worked in a munitions factory.
He spoke about doing odd jobs in the munitions factory and making sure he wasn't caught bringing in any matches or lighters as he snuck a smoke with his buddies. One spark, he said, and we were all goners, forget about our Axis enemies. He spoke about living in rented digs where the only heat would come from a grate in the floor - war-time houses that probably still stand to this day. I'm not sure if they've upgraded to central heat or even central air, but I sure hope so.
I never knew about this direct relation to the war effort, and now as we sit on the evening prior to Remembrance Day, I'm remiss if I don't think of the people, men and women who fought and continue to fight in wars around the world, but also of the people left behind to pick up the slack - my father included.
I didn't think I had an immediate connection to any veterans save my uncle who was in the RAF stationed in Egypt. The only proof is a picture that used to sit on the bookshelf in my aunt and uncle's house in Gorebridge, Scotland. My aunt did her part too, but because my family was so far removed from them, thousands of miles across the ocean, it didn't occur to me that I should remember their sacrifice too.
This year, I am. I'm offering up two full minutes of silence, which for me, is a feat. I will remember the sacrifices of the soldiers of the past and save a smile and a salute for the men and women serving today.