Last time I was home, Grampie told me more about his war experiences than I've ever heard him share. He doesn't like to talk about the war, which I've always understood (in theory). He has a collection of amusing anecdotes from his off-hours, and has shared a few vague generalities, but nothing concrete.
The two brief vignettes he shared were enough to shake me. It hit me, as I looked at the watery eyes of now-fragile man, that he has seen atrocities that would make me vomit. He had to kill or be killed. He saw death, more violently & more frequently than anyone else I know. His choice to be silent and to hold these memories within himself is a decision to protect those he loves. Because once you know something, you cannot un-know it.
Nearly every time we talk, Grampie asks about the boy-situation in my life. If there are none, he reassures me that I have plenty of time, and that I don't need anyone, anyway, since I have Jesus, my father, and his own loving self; he spends time every day on his knees for his family. And that is not an exaggeration. Every day. On his knees.
Ah, just thinking about this is making me teary. My Grampie has the ability to bring tears of love to my eyes faster and more frequently than anyone else in my life.
It is strange and almost impossible for me to imagine him as a young man, gaunt and dirty and living in a trench for weeks on end. Seeing death come to those around him. Sending death to visit others.
It hurts my heart. It makes me wish I could do something, sixty-five years later, to fix him; help him; give him back the innocence I don't even realize I carry with me.
Other Remembrance Day entries:
In Flanders' Fields - in remembring the past, let's not forget the present
A Moment of Silence - we each have our own stories and histories
Remembrance Day - a slightly biased article on why I wear a poppy (Grampie's story)