Book Hippo

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Everyday Hero

All is fresh outside today. We had a big thunderstorm last evening and now it's nice out. I think it won't last, we're due for rain all this week. I'm so glad that I'm in my apartment, so cozy.

It makes me think about all the people in the past who weren't so cozy and comfortable in the rain. Like soldiers of the first and second world wars who had to stay outside in the rain and fight and maybe die.

My grandfather was a soldier in WWI. He fought at Salonika which is a little reported battle. He never talked about it, except to say that he hated mules. The officers treated the mules better than the enlisted men, he used to say, and that was all he said.

I think some day I'd like to go to Salonika and see what it would have been like for my grandfather and the others who fought with him. It was his downfall in a way because he was bitten by a mosquitoe and contracted malaria. This weakened his heart. After the war his doctor told him that if he wanted to live, he had to move to either Alberta, Canada or Australia. As he had relatives in Alberta, he went there on a Soldiers Settlement, which meant he got free farmland.

One day him and granny came home to find the horses had broken into their house and were eating their straw mattress. They gave up farming and grandpa went to work for the railway as a Section Foreman.

I don't know when the decision came to leave Alberta and go to BC, maybe he didn't care anymore that he would die young if he did, but they ran a boarding house in Vancouver and he worked as a steward on the ships that go up the coast of BC, making extra money by playing the piano for the crowds. None of this was good for his heart and he died at about 74 years old. I miss him still.

But strangely, when I think of him, it's not as the man I knew but as the soldier I've only seen photos of. Fighting in the rain. Covered with lice. Drilling. This terrible part of his life which changed him in so many ways. Even when hunting for meat in Alberta, he would never actually shoot anything but hand his rifle over to his friend. After the war, he couldn't bring himself to kill. The war made him gentle. It gave him nightmares. It was something he had to survive every day for the rest of his life.

It made him an everyday hero.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts of your grandfather. War changed so many people in so many ways.