Originally published November 11, 2012
It must have caused quite a commotion, when he arrived in this world. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of it before (or since) – being born with different coloured eyes. But it’s true – although I never saw them myself – his wife told me about them. She also told me that he was just a teenager when he left school to join the army – the Ontario Regiment to be exact. She said that his mother didn’t even kiss him goodbye when he left for Europe to fight in the Second World War. It was a long journey – boarding a train in Oshawa for Halifax – and then by ship to England. But he had his guitar with him, and his buddies from the neighbourhood, so he probably wasn’t lonely. His wife also told me – with a look of pride – that he played his guitar on the BBC Radio, although it didn’t make him famous. After a few months, his regiment was shipped to Sicily, Italy.
She told me that he was badly wounded – shrapnel from a bomb or grenade had struck him in the eye. She said that the medics placed sandbags around his head to keep him still while they removed the metal from his left eye – the operation took place on the battlefield. But they couldn’t save his eye – there was nothing left of it. He returned home to Oshawa – but the war for him was not over. There would be many sleepless nights – reliving the horrors of war. He wore an eye patch for quite some time – until he was fitted with a “glass eye”. Nobody could tease him about his different coloured eyes anymore.
His wife told me that they had met each other after the war – and it was love at first sight. She said they married and then went to Montreal for their honeymoon. They started a family – their first child was a girl – and they named her Linda Mae. Their second daughter was born a year later – they named her Leslie Heather. A year later, they had their first boy and named him Daniel James. Nobody ever called me Daniel though – it was always just Danny. My brother Frederick Donald, was born a year later and then several years later, the stork brought Eric (Ricky) and then returned a year later to bring Randy.
I remember asking Dad about his experiences in the war but he would always remain silent. In fact, he never talked about the war until I was an adult but even then, he would only talk about it in general terms – never the gory details. My Mom explained that most of the soldiers that had seen action would never talk about their experiences. I remember my cousin Jim Little from Calgary telling me that he was a young boy when my Dad had returned home from the war. Jim and his parents were living in my Grandparent’s home on Ritson Road, and he remembers that whenever there was a bad storm – with thunder, my Dad would be in the closet – taking cover. My Mom told me that for years my Dad would wake up at night, screaming.
My Dad was sick for the last year of his life. My Mom called me after he had been taken by ambulance to the Oshawa Hospital. I made arrangements to fly to Toronto the next day and took a taxi from the airport directly to the hospital. My family were all gathered in his room – he was laying on the bed – his eyes were closed. I asked my Mom if he was sleeping, but she sadly shook her head and told me that he wasn’t conscious. I went out into the hall and spoke to the Head Nurse – “Is my Dad going to regain consciousness? Is he going to be okay?” She told me that my Dad could probably still hear – but he wouldn’t be able to respond. I remember walking back into the room and over to his bed. I stroked his head and told him that I loved him. I had never ever told him that before. And my Dad had never ever told me that he loved me either. My Mom suggested that we leave for the evening. My brother Randy would be staying in the room with Dad and then I would return to the hospital in the morning. We said goodnight to Dad and as we were leaving I glanced at the framed picture of my Dad in his army uniform – taken just before he left for the war in Europe. My Mom had brought the picture to Dad’s room because it was Remembrance Day – November 11th.
On our drive back to their apartment, I told Mom that I had never told Dad that I loved him before and I hoped that he was able to hear me. But I knew that he loved me – because my Mom told me so. He was brought up in a family that didn’t show their emotions – so it just wasn’t in his nature. We had just walked into their place and the telephone rang. I answered the phone, it was Randy – he said that Dad had just passed away.
Yes, he passed away on Remembrance Day, November 11, 2001 – – how befitting for a veteran.
And my Mom, who was just a bit superstitious, would often comment on how strange it was that when she moved sometime later into a condo in Ajax, that it happened to be #1101 (eleven-o-one) and that Dad had died on 11/01.
And on September 26, 2010, Mom was reunited with Dad.
Rest in Peace, Dad.
Rest in Peace, Ma.
Tune: The Band Played Waltzing Matilda ~ The Dubliners
Dedicated to our Veterans and to those currently serving in the Armed Forces – “Lest We Forget”.