Everyone’s definition of a hero is different. Their hero could be a sports star, their parents, a loved one courageously battling an illness, or someone who selflessly gave their life for something. For myself, there are two people who come to mind. However, the most important hero in my life is my grandfather.
I’ve talked about him briefly before. He was a WWII vet who crossed enemy lines to capture two high-ranking Nazi officials and lived to talk about it. While he really didn’t talk too much about it (and who would after what he had seen at such a young age), he did tell me the most important thing that I have carried around since then…. that he did what he did for me, and he didn’t even know that I would one day exist.
Pretty deep for a three-year old to comprehend.
Remembrance Day is just around the corner. On November 11 we will gather to remember the brave men and women who sacrificed (and continue to do so) their life to fight for our freedom so we can continue to have it. I’m very lucky to be living in a country such as Canada, I love it so very so. If Hitler had his way, I wouldn’t be here. Most of my family wouldn’t be here. Most of my friends wouldn’t be here. I’m glad that my freedom is protected so I can go to school, work where I’d like to work, be friends with whom I want to be friends with and have my own opinions. Just the other day I was telling my grandfather’s amazing story to a grade six class in my library. It was quiet. Eerily quiet and they were listening. I mean really listening. They were genuinely interested in his story. They’re spearheading the Remembrance Day service at work on Friday and I thought it would be great to share something so personal with them. They loved it. I even had one student tell me the very next day how lucky I was to have had such an amazing grandpa in my life. I sure am.
I told them about what it was like to live in Nazi-era Germany. Sure I didn’t live it, but we all have read about it and learned about it in school. I told them how lucky they are to be sitting in a library with so many wonderful books because in Nazi-time Germany, there was only one and nothing else. You had to read it over and over and over again. No one cared if you read it a hundred times already, you read it until you were told to stop.
I am not quite sure what it is, but as of late, I’ve been on a mission. Almost like a soul-searching mission. Maybe it’s my age, but I feel that as I get older, I want to know more. I am pretty well up-to-date on my family history. I know where I come from and it’s a pretty spectacular lineage. I’ve always said that in order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve come from. That line always blows the kids minds. It’s like, “Wow. She’s totally right!” when I tell them.
Next July it will be 30 years since the passing of my grandfather. I was a few months shy of my third birthday. If he were still with us today he would be 94 years-old. My grandpa was pretty awesome. I still have very vivid memories of coming over to my grandparents house (the home I have lived in since his passing), especially on Sundays where I would sit on his lap in his green chair and we’d watch Fraggle Rock. He sure did love that show. We ate bologna sandwiches and just watched TV. Family dinners and just the various visits every week. I was the bright light of his life and I could feel it. Prior to my birth my grandfather was a drinker… no right for me to judge, he went through a lot in his life and sacrificed a lot. My dad said he could be mean and wasn’t pleasant to be around. When my parents told my grandparents that I was coming along, my grandpa quit drinking and turned his life around. He was so proud and was excited to be a grandfather. Sure there was my brother, but our bond was different. I was his little girl and I appreciated the love that he had for me.
All these years later his death is still very hard on me. There are days when I am angry that he was taken away from me at such a young age (he was only 67). I was angry that I couldn’t share him with my sister or with others. I would have loved to take him to school and be able to tell his story with him there. I am so proud of him and I hope he knows it. There are days that when I remember him, I smile. Then there are days when I burst out crying because I miss him so much. The loss of a love one never becomes easy to cope with. That’s just it… you’re coping. It doesn’t matter if you’re three or thirty… it still hurts the same.
I’ve been wanting to know more about his story. More of his history and more of mine. With my grandpa gone and my grandma too (she passed four years later), all I have are my memories and the stories from family members. I want to know more about him, more about his time in the war. I know that there might be some parts that he wouldn’t want to talk about, and I’d be fine with that. My great-uncle was shot down during the same war and was a POW in a Nazi concentration camp. He never talked about it, rightfully so.
Would he, after all these years, still want to tell his story? Would he still want to talk about it?!
If he didn’t want to publicly share his story I think, at least, he’d share it with me. I’d like to think he would.
With all the feelings and emotions I’ve been going through as of late, something very odd happened. Sunday night while I was moving things into the utility room (which was oddly his “man cave”, aside from the garage) I just happened to glance at the storage shelf (which he built) and spied something pretty cool, war-time books. His war-time books.
Look at that history… and it’s all perfectly preserved. Tucked away amongst books and manuals belonging to my dad, there are four books (not pictured) that belonged to my grandfather that he purchased (all for 75 cents) right after WWII ended. All three copies were published in 1946 and I am really amazed at how well these books are still holding on. They’re as old as the war and it’s amazing to have my hands on a piece of history. I cannot wait to sit down and begin reading them. I’m a huge history lover, after all, I have a minor in History.
I am very proud of my grandfather. Very proud. I’m sure this post goes to show how much. I’m also very certain that he directed me to these books, because like I said, I’ve been on a mission to learn more about him.
Twenty-nine years later my grandfather is speaking up and has said – I don’t have to go far to find what I’m looking for.
Je t’aime grandpa. I miss you.
And thank you.