Remembrance Day. It’s always a way for back to my father for me. He died when I was just ten years old and I never knew much about his time as a Spitfire pilot in World War II. He didn’t talk about his personal life; his inner thoughts remained out of reach, as much as his hugs and encouragement to me and I felt on the other side of an immense lake of indifference that I would never cross before his death. At all times he was a man, to me anyway, of decisive action and booming presence until his last few years, when his heart began to fade, and his health declined. He was then a shadow, often asleep in his easy chair in the den, with his head rolled to one side. We were never, ever to wake him so we tiptoed and whispered and I remember often wondering if he was still breathing. It wasn’t if, it was always when and it came as no shock when he finally passed away.
Yet at one time, he fought two Luftwaffe in a dogfight over Italy and was shot down then crawled to refuge in an Italian farm where he recovered and eventually made life-long friendships. The image of him as a pilot, spinning through the air with two German aircraft gunning for him never matched up with the weak and dying man who filled the role of father to my young self.
Today, though, in remembrance, I honour his young, brave self, sailing into the enemy sky, a Canadian boy from the Prairies with a huge heart and generous dose of red hair and gritty Irish nerve.
Lest we forget.