MARCH 13, 2012 1:31PM

Of Course It Was Snowing....

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P210212_12

 

     I almost lost it. Just the one time.
     It was when the trumpeter blew "The Last Post", the traditional bugle call that marks the end of the military day and which is now played during Remembrance services. But he wouldn't have approved if I had, and neither would I.  
     Instead, standing in the silence before "The Rouse" sang out, I stared at the table with his urn draped by the Maple Leaf flag, remembering how once he had opposed its replacing the Union Jack and the Canadian Red Ensign under which he'd grown up and later went to war.
     Opposed, that is, until he and Mum were on vacation in Bermuda and saw it flying, for the first time, over a Canadian government building in a foreign country. It suddenly became a non-issue.
     Nearby were two other tables filled with mementos: putter, golf cap, photos, including one of him riding his horse along a stream bed during a hunt. He was dressed to the nines in his pinks, black helmet, tan pants and tall riding boots. I think I took it; it certainly looked like my work. But maybe not. I wasn't around much then.

 * * *

     The end had come surprisingly fast. On the Monday, I'd driven down to see him in the palliative care wing of the veterans' hospital. He was happily inhabiting a room with a wonderful view of the city, surrounded by some items he'd asked for and cheerfully ignoring the growing pain of pancreatic cancer.
     In clear line of vision were a portrait of Mum, another of him in uniform prior to heading overseas and a cartoon by a friend of mine commemorating the 50th anniversary of VE Day. I call it a cartoon, but it's really a piece of simple evocative art: Two old soldiers in berets and blazers in Normandy, one saying, "Well, I guess we just did our bit". Underneath is the caption "You Saved The World". Quite so.
     The last thing he said to me as we shook hands, was, "Drive safely, Son." I allowed as how I always drive safely -- it's the other morons' driving I worry about. And then I left, saying over my shoulder, "See you soon."

* * *

     It wasn't to be.
     That evening, he was still in high spirits, calling an old neighbour to wish her happy birthday, then a florist to have a bouquet sent to his latest lady friend for Valentine's Day. A while later, a nurse brought him his favourite nightcap -- a potent mixture of scotch and Drambuie called a "rusty nail". And then he dropped off to sleep.
     He went into cardiac arrest early in the morning, with my brother and sister-in-law getting there in time to hold his hand when he crossed the bar at 6:30.
     I got the call about 7 a.m., by which time Red and I had uncharacteristically been awake for half an hour. She was lying in bed, restless. I was on the lower level, watching the news and occasionally looking out the window and down the ravine.
     It was snowing. Of course it was snowing. How appropriate for hearing about the death of the old north woodsman.

* * *

     And it snowed at the cemetery too, a week later. Almost as if he'd planned it that way.
     The knot of people around the same grave we buried Mum in 17 years ago mostly huddled under umbrellas provided by the funeral home. I had my own -- I always carry one along with a green garbage bag and other foul weather gear. Another thing the onetime Boy Scout district commissioner always preached -- semper paratus.  
     Then down into the small hole went the earthly remains of a soldier of the King. It was over.
     I headed home to the Redhead, a two-hour trip that felt like eternity.

* * *

     That night, we watched the home movies from when they were young -- Dad, his sisters, his brother. The only person still living is the little girl who would become his sister-in-law years later.
     Included is footage of him on crutches getting off the troop train that finally brought him home in 1945. He'd been injured in a motorcycle crash late in May, just after the war in Europe ended, and they wanted to stretcher him off.
     "Get lost," -- or words to that effect -- he said. No way was he going to greet his family and future wife flat on his back after more than four years overseas.
     In fact, that was pretty much his way of going at things. That last day, he sat up on the edge of his bed. "Give me a hand getting to my chair," he said. I did ... but I had to catch him when he suddenly stumbled and nearly fell. For that breach of hospital protocol -- getting him up without an orderly present -- we were both roundly castigated by the staff.
     "Guess we annoyed them," he said a few minutes later, a wicked, unrepentant grin on his face.
     "Good," I said.

 

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The way you write it I can see that your dad had a good death. Yes, to my way of thinking, there is such a thing as a good death. He also had a good life. All in all I would say he was a rich man, indeed. You do him proud with your words.
Ah, fathers. We could never get around them, and we can never get over them, and now that we've become them, they will never leave our hearts and minds.
I feel your love for him...
Such a lovely tribute to your dad, Bo. What a man; I like him. I'm glad your brother was there when he passed. Glad he got to have his nurse bring him his favorite adult beverage (that would never happen in the US). Glad you shared this with us. Peace.
A Rusty Nail... one of the favorite cocktails of a true friend of mine now long gone. Brings back memories... so clear in my minds eye, I could reach out and touch him. I miss him.
A moving tribute to your father, Boanerges. Snow, somehow, just seems appropriate on such occasions. He left a good legacy behind, may he rest in peace.
Very nice Bo, your dad is smiling with every word you wrote. My best as always my friend and a Salute to your Dad. o/e m&m
Very touching post.
Very moving tribute. I wonder if he would have liked me too.
He was a very special man to have built a son who would make such a beautiful tribute. I love when the young picture is used, too. That handsome young man is who he truly was.
Boaner, he sounded like a helluva man. Fought in the war like my dad. There was something about that war that is different than all the others I think. A reason, I guess. My sympathy's my friend.
Bo, Though I knew the story from before thanks for sharing these words. I hope it does your heart good to write in honour of your Dad's spirit as it does those of us who read here. A fine unrepentant grin shared between father and son ... a fitting ending here.
Fine tribute Boanerges. He sounds like a splendid example of the "greatest generation" and it's great he had his wits about him to the end.
You may not have been with him at the end, but he was with you:
"he crossed the bar at 6:30.
I got the call about 7 a.m., by which time Red and I had uncharacteristically been awake for half an hour. She was lying in bed, restless. " My heart goes out to you, Boanerges, it's hard becoming an orphan.
I am so sorry. How are you doing at the moment?
The love you have for your father drips from this eloquent remembrance. You are a writer's writer.
A beautiful, moving tribute to your Dad. You did him proud with this one. I'm glad that he got to have that rusty nail before bedtime, and that the last night had its good moments.

I hope you're holding up ok.
Yes, David, I absolutely agree, although others wouldn't. The prognosis was so awful. And he'd be the first to say he had a good run.

Well put, Tom. Can't quite believe I cannot any longer pick up the phone and ask him some question about arcane family lore.

Thank you, Patrick. It wasn't always easy for either of us.

FC, he was in the palliative care wing of a vets' hospital, where, apparently, anything pretty much goes. And I'm glad my brother was there too.

Thanks, Janie. Yeah ... he had the twinkle. It was even mentioned in the obit.

Amazing what something like the name of a simple concoction will evoke, Jamac.

Thank you, Fusun. Snow was part of his early life up there north of nowhere (by my reckoning). It just seemed right.

O/E, I know you know what I'm talking about here. My best to you both and my thanks to you both.

And thank you too, Myriad.

Snarky, he'd no doubt have liked you. I can think of several reasons why.

Zuma, he wasn't even 23 when that photo was taken, and he'd been away from home a long time. Yeah, he was that guy.

ScanMan, I agree. There *was* something different about that war and those men and women. Tough as nails and a whole lot determined.

Yeah, SS, I didn't know it at the time, of course, but it's a great last memory to have. Guess both of us had problems with authority.

He did, Abra, he did. That's why it came as such a shock. We had a chuckle over why his father came to Canada from England when he did (he wanted to see the world) and how he wound up in the North Woods running a mining operation miles from nowhere.

John, I'm not surprised you picked up on that. It's quite amazing, actually. And thanks for the condolences.

Thanks, KK, I'm doing fine. I got Red here, and believe me, that means everything.

And thank you too, VA. Yes, it's going well. I'm glad he had that final libation too. It was appropriate to his life and his death.
Bo,On November 11th I posted a Remembrance Day tribute to our lost warriors. Would you feel it amiss if I offered it to your dad?If that meets with your approval, please click on this......IN MEMORY OF A MAN OF HONOUR   

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What Scarlett said. Plus love from me.
A stunning piece, my parents were both WWII veterans. Good people they were too.
I send you my heartfelt condolences.
Thanks, Sky. I remember that post. I rather suspect he'd argue a point or two with you, but yes, in many ways it's a fitting tribute. I understand why he went -- and I would have too -- but I also understand and appreciate the truth of what you wrote.

Thanks, Aim.

Sheila, my Mum wanted to join the Canadian Women's Army Corps, but was essentially forbidden by her family. I wish she had -- the two of them would have had a lot more to share, and I could have said "Yeah, my mother DID wear army boots". All kidding aside, thanks for the condolences, and they were special.
Oh my, old buddy, that was beautiful. Simply beautiful.
You know how I feel and how much I was moved by your father's passing. Thanks for sharing the entire story. "The knot of people..." such a expressive description. Hugs to you both.