It's coming up on 11 am on Remembrance Day and I find myself thinking about my father, Clair Traynor, and his brothers. They all served in World War II, like so many of their friends. But my Dad never told me much about his time overseas. He arrived in Europe closer to the end of the war. Although he signed up shortly after war was declared, the army told him to finish his Engineering degree, then ship out.
I know that he served in Holland, re-building bridges and roads so that the troops sweeping in could continue liberating that country and continue on to Germany. As he got older, and we became closer, a few stories emerged, but much of what I know I've learned from others over the years.
What I'm remembering now is that Dad didn't have much to do with Remembrance Day. At least, I don't remember it being noted in our household. To be honest, my father was a bit remote from me when I was a kid. He went off to work most days and was home for supper. I remember him reading the paper every night and listening to the news.
But my memories of November 11 are mostly a ceremony at school. We used to gather in the gym for an assembly. I'm sure there were some speeches, and there were poppies, I think. But it was just a ceremony, then we were done. I don't recall my Dad leaving work to attend at the cenotaph. It seems to me that the event was not as celebrated then as it is now. I'm pretty sure my Dad never wanted to celebrate.
I don't think that there's any doubt that Dad's years in the army were some of the best years of his life. For a young man who was orphaned early in life, the army gave a family-like structure that he'd never had as a kid. That's what I suspect anyway. We never really talked about it much.
I know my Dad's experience is not uncommon. Many people say their parents and grandparents never had much to say about their war experiences. That stuff had happened, but it was in the past. And the past was done with. The only thing about the past that was important to my Dad was family. He was passionate about his extended family. He went to all the weddings, most of the reunions and whenever we travelled, we stayed with relatives. Family was important.
Today, as I consider what Remembrance Day means to me, I think I'll keep it quiet. I respect and honour those who served us in the past and those who serve us today. It's an honourable calling and I'm grateful for what we've been given. But I'll respect my Father's wishes too. Let's just leave it at a simple...
Thank you, Dad.