Returning to Normal

As we have done each year for the last ninety years, today Canada will pause to remember those soldiers who gave their lives in service of their country. The remembering is about them, the ones who never came home, and it is right to honour them.

There were others, though. Thousands and thousands of others who saw terrible things, and then came home to live ordinary lives. How is it possible to return from the front lines and take up a quiet, “normal” life? This has always been a puzzle to me because my father is such a person. He spent a grueling few months in France, Belgium and Holland near the end of WWII, on the front lines. Often he was the first line in an advance on the retreating Germans, who were not leaving quietly. He was exhausted, sick, and most likely haunted by what he had seen. Yet he, like so many others, simply came home at the end of it all and resumed his regular life. No fuss. Just got on with things and left the war behind. Like a sitcom, where things return to the way they were at the beginning, no matter what kind of bizarre events have taken place in the half hour.

He was one of the fortunate ones from his small town. Some of his friends never returned, but he seemed destined to survive. He started out with the Seaforth Highlanders, but was bored with the endless parading. The Calgary Tanks came recruiting and scooped up a number of his friends, but he was sick and missed his chance. The Calgary Tanks were decimated in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe, and many were taken prisoner. Later in England, he was with the Regina Rifles, but for reasons he has never divulged was “kicked out”  before D-Day. The Regina Rifles were part of the D-Day invasion and like other regiments suffered heavy losses. He landed on Juno Beach with the Lake Superiors in the second invasion after D-Day, and began the race to close the Falaise gap, eventually ending up in Holland. As part of the armoured division, he was ahead of most of his company in the advancing line. When they eventually caught up with him, there were only seven of them left out of about a hundred.

It seems remarkable to me that he made it home at all. But he did, and like so many others, just got on with his quiet life and never looked back.

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~ by standupmimi on November 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “Returning to Normal”

  1. A true Canadian war hero for sure. We take so many things for granted as we are so busy with our lives that we forget the sacrifices made so we can enjoy the freedoms that we have.
    We must never forget these people and what they have done for us.
    Your dad makes me feel proud to be a Canadian. Thank you for sharing that.

  2. I had an uncle that made it through too. He also just “got on with it” except he probably didn’t. I remember clearly one night somebody brought it up and he just said, “Yeah” and got up and left the room.

  3. Yes, that’s the real truth, isn’t it? There can’t really be a “normal” after something like that, even though that’s how it appears. It seems to me that it must take an extraordinary effort to be ordinary.

    A friend of my dad’s was a POW (having been captured at Dieppe) and when he returned, he never did “get on with it”. He drank himself to death.

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