MY mother’s father only ever told the “good” stories of the war. Even the ones that included his boots being full of his own blood were told with a laugh. His study was covered in pictures of ships he’d served on, and with books of war and naval service. Laughter, pipe smoke and whisky I remember from when I was young.
My father’s father never spoke of the war, and I was too young before he passed to know enough about him, but his silence was a remembrance for me as well. His war was in the air and seen through a bomb-sight, and some duties are harder to laugh about.
When I was a teenager, I would go to the Remembrance Day ceremonies and watch my big, burly grandfather march with all his medals and his old, old friends. My young friends and I would stand together in silence as they walked by.
In their faces there was a truth that spoke of more than just laughter. They did not march for themselves, but for the ghosts that walked amongst them. They marched with a burden of loss, and a duty to remember. They remembered not for the sake of their lost companions, but for me and my companions.
We watched the veterans march past, and they put the weight of their loss upon us. I looked upon them and felt the bite of the November damp. I might be that old some day, and remembering the friends that were with me now. I might be remembering them as dead and long gone, unfairly spent in a brief moment.
After the parade and memorial, my mother’s father would go to the legion hall. Later would be dinner with family. It was a holiday, and we would eat and drink and feel the warm glow of kin. But the ghosts would have a place, and we would not forget.
Remembrance Day after I graduated from High School I lost one of my best friends. The phone rang in the morning with the news.
With loss came a deeper understanding of what my Grandfather and his friends felt behind the laughter. What I had felt once they felt time and time again. That was war. That was the burden they remembered, and they passed that remembrance on to me.
I am not young anymore, and I have lost so much.
Today I remember all my losses. I cherish the memories of those who only live in my heart now, and I remember my pain. I honour my grandfathers and remember them, and their pain. I remember their pain that was from war, and will never forget that is the cost of war.
The charge is simple:
They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.