I casually complain to a coworker
about all the government employees
who’re watching Breakfast Television
in their flannel pajamas about now
while I’m stuck here festering with her
in this swamp of greed and regulation
(okay, not in those words exactly)
and she says it’s really stupid
because most of them are immigrants
(ohhhhhhh boy, here we go)
and why should they get a holiday?
Their grandparents didn’t fight
in the World Wars,
at least not on our side,
and most of them don’t know
what today is about anyway.
And I think about a friend of mine
whose family had to flee their home
during the first Gulf war. I don’t know
many people of any colour or country
who’ve been as close to war
as she has.
She could tell you
what today is about.
The principal, Mr. Murphy, is a history buff.
He asks to come in and talk to our Grade 8 class
about Nazism and World War Two, things that happened
before we were born, before our parents were born.
He paces up along the row of pencil-marked desks
looking at us awhile. Then he points to Lisa, an Asian girl,
and says, “If this was Nazi Germany, you’d be dead.”
He continues down the line: “You’d be dead,
you’d be dead, you’d still be alive, not you…”
There goes Karen, Derek, Peter, Debbie
-- half the class is Asian, all dead.
Mr. Murphy points to Chris, who is black
and also maybe my best friend, and says, “You’re dead.”
He comes to me next. “You’d be alive, but
you’d have to hide that you’re Polish.”
At the end, he asks those of us still alive
to raise our hands. Five hands go up.
Things have been coming back
to my father-in-law slowly, since the accident.
His wife held his hand, taught him to read again,
re-taught him little things. Her unwavering patience
and love is touching.
One morning, as he and I share breakfast alone,
he tells me he remembers the war. He was too young,
but he lied so he could go. They needed him, he says.
My father-in-law wanted to be a pilot, but
he was miserably hungover the day of the exam.
They sent him with a troop to clear trails instead.
One day as they were burning through thickets
they came upon a group of young Nazi soldiers
and attacked them with their torches.
He watched them burn,
boys just his own age.
My sister and I write poems for Remembrance Day,
terrible rhyming ones for school that we decorate
with green construction paper borders
and pencil-crayon poppies.
Our mother persuades us to mail them off
to our grandfather, who is a veteran, with a letter
to thank him for fighting for our freedom.
Years latter, our poems will be framed
and mounted proudly on his living room wall
beside the Gravenhurst Banner clippings
from when he sent them in
for publication. Our grandparents
will direct guests to read them
and wait with inflated chests
while we squirm with
Photo by hobvias sudoneighm
What's one of your more vivid memories connected to war or Remembrance Day?