Saturday, 12 November 2011

Stories and Poppies

Rarely, very rarely, my grandfather will tell some stories. Usually, they're the funny ones, the ones that many in the family have heard over and over again, the ones I will never tire of hearing. 

Stories of chasing a barge full of watermelons down the river through Baghdad. Or playing tank football in north Africa. Or running around the streets of Paris with a necklace made of onions.

Sometimes, when it's just me and him, he trusts the soldier in me with a little more. I'll hear a little more of the battles, of manoeuvres, of his comrades. He never tells me who fell and who came home, but some names are harder for him to mention than others. Some raise a smile, some cause the hint of a tear. But just a hint. Some manage to raise both emotions at the same time. 

And me? I just listen, and wait in hope for the day when he trusts me with a little more. In between, once a year, I wear a poppy and stop to remember. It isn't much, but I know it means the world to him and to his comrades. 

Those who came home, those who didn't, and those who are still doing it today. 


Shotinfoot said...

Good one

TomVee said...

I always wonder why my grandfather, a private in the German Wehrmacht in WWII, would never talk about his war memories. Did he experience / witness / perpetrate something horrible?
But apparently other soldiers are often like him, no matter which side.

MSgt B said...

I grew upon those same stories.

My son serves.
I served.
My father served.
His father served.
etc. etc..

Somewhere back there we were shooting at Redcoats.

No hard feelings, eh?

No one here in the States sells Poppies, but if they did, I would buy one.

Tell your Grandpa I said thanks.

CyprusMedic said...

My Grandad never told us stories, but we never asked, I wish he was still alive today so I could ask, I hope he'd be proud of how well I've done in the Army, I'm leaving now because I want to be closer to family but I hope he'd be happy with what I've achieved so far.

Thanks for wearing the Poppy guys, some people argue about wearing them and don't think they should but at the end of they day, most people have had or have a family memeber serve so it just the smallest sign of respect for them.

We will remember them.

InsomniacMedic said...

Anon - Thanks!

TomVee - your comment is particularly poignant. Soldiers are soldiers, but underneath, we are all people. It's a thought worth remembering.

Msgt B - Indeed. No hard feelings. And I'll be sure to pass on your thanks.

CM - As far as I'm concerned, poppies have no politics attached. They are a simple reminder of a complex past and and ongoing present.

TomVee said...

Thanks IM. Yeah I guess you are right. Things like the christmas truce(s) in WWI underline that, too.

Incidentally, the one war experience my grandfather did talk about was his time in a British POW camp in Belgium. He later always felt very lucky to not only be out of the fighting, but also to be so fairly treated by the Brits. When he returned to his home and family, he was forced to steal coal form, of all things, the British occupation forces. That always stung him.

Paramed Student said...

Insomnic, you made me cry. My Grandfather served in Papua New Guinea. He never spoke of it, I never saw any medals, there is only one photo of him in his uniform. He died when I was 12. 16 years of poppies have passed since them, I miss him more now. I wish I could have known him as an adult. Treasure what you have.