Make love.. not war. A story about one man.. my dad.

There are hidden treasures stripped from German soldiers’ personal items, buried all over Europe. Look in fields and ditches and wherever the allies took and kept German prisoners of war. I know this because my dad told me. He never talked about the war with me but I was sharing with him my desire to travel and experience other countries.

This little fact about World War Two intrigued me.  I hadn’t heard of this before but apparently, it was not all that uncommon. He mused if he ever went over there again.. would he be able to recognize any of the places he and his buddies buried their stashes, confiscated from these captured Germans.

In case you think this is really bad, think about the Nazis capturing our men/boys. They took them into a field and shot them in the back of the head so they didn’t have to take any prisoners. Which group of soldiers would you want to be with?

I think war changes people forever. The ones that come home from battle have scars we can only guess at. The closest my dad came to confiding in me was this  “you don’t ever want to know or see what we went through, nobody should have to experience that.” He said this with such a sense of deep sadness and finality, I never asked him again.

Growing up with my dad, his favorite phrase was “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” He certainly was a lover, getting my mom pregnant every year with another child. In the twelve years they were together she produced six children, one was stillborn and there were a few miscarriages. We were Catholic.

My dad was a dreamer and a charmer and loved to make people laugh. He was not beneath using me as a prop to get the laughs.. “she was so ugly as a child we had to tie a pork chop around her neck so the dogs would play with her.” I didn’t mind his jokes, I know he loved me best and maybe I liked being the center of his attention.

Make love, not war.. was another of his sayings and he had a repertoire of them. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a very good provider, he loved gambling on everything, getting into poker games he could lose his whole paycheck. He had a chance at an NHL hockey career but got sidetracked on the way to training camp in Toronto. Seems the train stopped in Winnipeg and he and a bunch of his buddies were inebriated and got off to go find a poker game.

He loved playing hockey and was good at it. Another favorite saying of his was “Gordie Howe used to carry my hockey skates” they lived in the same area of Saskatoon. He also played over in England (he was with the Canadian Princess Pats division from Saskatchewan) in the armed forces. After the war and back home, he married my mom. He was fond of telling the story of when she was eight months pregnant with me. While playing hockey for the Vancouver Canucks in a game against Seattle, my dad got hurt on the ice, she actually climbed over the boards to make sure he was ok. They had to escort her back to her seat.

They fought all the time over money, his gambling addiction was a problem, he had visions of hitting it big. It must have been hell for my mom, her being pregnant all the time and worrying about money. She finally did leave him after he came home from yet another new job, being a month away working in the interior of BC. He had gambled away his paycheck and it was the month before Christmas.  We moved back to Saskatchewan without him. I was twelve years old and the oldest of six.

My dad was not a bad person, he wasn’t a drunk nor was he mean. I can still see him walking down the road coming home from his day job. All of us kids ran out joyfully to meet him, he had the biggest grin on his face, he loved each of us (me the best of course) it’s just unfortunate that he was a lousy husband and breadwinner.

Actually, that’s not true either, his addiction to gambling was maybe his ‘drug’ to forget what he had experienced while fighting a war overseas, far from home. I know he had to shoot people and he lost friends in battle. How many of us could go through what they did and come back unscathed? We don’t know what goes on in someone else’s mind, I’m sure that war left its mark on him.

My dad received medals, some say everyone got medals, I don’t know if this is true. He claimed he got them for being first in line for chow every day, which always got laughs. Of his shrapnel wound in his backside, he would joke that he got shot running from the enemy. I don’t know the real story but he was wounded over there and did receive a small pension.

He was a fun dad and I missed him terribly when my mom left him. He was not cruel or mean, he probably thought my mom’s well-off parents would look after us. They did and didn’t, we eventually found ourselves on welfare.

We missed out on having a dad for our formative years, but to write him off as a deadbeat dad would be doing him a grave disservice. With age comes wisdom. These young men were sent off to fight a war in another part of the world far from home and families. They were on a mission that changed the world forever. That war may also have changed many of them forever as well.

Dad, I always think of you with love in my heart. Thank you for your service and I am so grateful you are my dad. You and all your brothers and so many young men couldn’t have known the horrors that awaited. You fought a war for the freedoms we enjoy today.. you are my hero.

#mythirdlifeblog #lmbl

Copyright November 11th 2019