There are hidden treasures buried all over Europe stripped from captured German soldiers’ personal items. Look in fields and ditches and wherever the allies took and kept German prisoners of war. I know this only because my dad told me. He never talked about the war with me but I was sharing with him my desire to travel to Italy and explore other countries.
This little fact about World War Two intrigued me. I had never heard this before, but apparently, it was not all that uncommon. He mused if he ever went over there again (Italy) would he be able to recognize any of the places he and his buddies buried their stashes, confiscated all those years ago?
I was a little taken aback at what he shared with me but he also went on to say that Nazis troops capturing our men/boys marched them into a field and shot in the back of the head! They were not fond of taking 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 confide in me other than that one confession, 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 gave life to six of us, one born stillborn and also a couple of miscarriages. We were Catholic, need I say more?
My dad was a dreamer and a charmer and he 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 the best provider, he had a gambling addiction, getting into poker games he could lose his whole paycheck. He was scouted for the NHL and sent to a hockey training camp in Toronto but got sidetracked on the way. 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.End of any NHL dreams he may have had.
He loved hockey and was good at it, another of his favorite sayings was “Gordie Howe used to carry my hockey skates” they lived in the same area of Saskatoon. He also played for the armed forces while in England (he was with the Canadian Princess Pats division from Saskatchewan) waiting to be shipped into battle. He married my mom once back home from the war, she was a few months pregnant with me. He was also fond of telling another 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.
His gambling addiction was the reason they fought all the time, he had visions of hitting it big. It must have been hell for my mom, her being pregnant all the time and worrying about how to pay the bills. We were living in B.C. when she finally left him after he came home once more without a paycheck which he had gambled away yet again. This was a month before Christmas. We moved back to Saskatoon, 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 picture him walking down the road from his day job. We all ran out joyfully to greet 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 provider.
Actually, 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 as well as being witness to your mates dying 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 everyone that eagerly signed up not having a clue of the horrors that lay ahead for them.
He 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, and I suppose I never will, 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, I’m sure he 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. Farm boys, city boys, and just boys, eager to fight an evil enemy so we could live in a free world. They were on a mission that changed our world forever. That war may also have changed many of them forever as well.
Dad, I will 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.
Copyright November 11th 2019