I remember reciting this poem in school every November 11th.
In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place;
and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing,
fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
I never really got it then. I had no reference point. My dad was still alive. And that was only because he was one year to old to be sent to war and he had a family on the way. That is what I was always told, I don't know if it was true. I was born in 1945 just after the last shots had been fired.
I remember those men in our town that had gone to war. They were Mennonites and should have been Conscientious Objectors according to the faith. They went anyway, wanting to serve their country. When they came back they were treated with disdain. Our next door neighbour.."Abie" was one on them. He was "conscripted" to serve much like the American draft, as were the others, and like my dad would have been had he not been too old. But they didn't take the Conscientious Objector route which could have saved them from serving if they didn't want to go.
Abie, joined the army. He left his position as a school teacher in our town to do his duty. When he came back his job was gone..I believe it was because he went to war, and now the town wouldn't hire him back because he "went to war." After that .... he didn't have much of a life. He worked for the "town"..did small jobs, but he never again got into the educational system. Abie, was smart, well read, and without a real job..other than menial labour jobs ...he spiralled downwards...he started to drink. I wasn't there to see all this from the beginning, because I was too young, but I was there when he was considered the town drunk. He was a binge drinker, so when I was old enough, I saw Abie in his good days...and also in his bad days. And in his good days, he was such a wonderful person. He got me interested in literature, and gave me access to his house to peruse his vast library of books. Granted, the house was in disrepair, and I had to be careful climbing up the steps to the upstairs...where he had them stored. He always checked the books I took out to see what I was reading, and gave his opinion on the book. After I brought them back we would discuss what I had thought about it. Sometimes there was a big difference of opinion...after all I was about 15 and he was ..like OLD. Some of the books were a little too mature for me at that age...but if I had any questions I could ask him. I can't believe how we argued. I miss that dear man. The drunk next door.
I know I have probably told this story before, but on Remembrance Day...I always remember him. Abie..my next door neighbour in Altona.