Another Remembrance Day is pretty much done. I am ashamed to say that I was in a course and we forgot to observe a minute's silence.
Why do I observe Remembrance day? Why do I buy a fabric poppy from the crustiest old bloke I can find?
My Pop was an ANZAC. He fought at Gallipoli. If you have seen the movie Gallipoli, he almost undoubtedly was one of the blokes having a ball in Cairo, pissing off the British and blowing off the officers. He fought at the Somme. He went AWOL for 23 days after his leave ended in England, yet managed to avoid being shot or hung for desertion when he went back (his commander must've fought so hard for him in the court martial). He had part of his face blown away, and his injuries were so bad that he was thrown off the truck during a retreat. They thought he would not survive. But he did - he fell in a puddle which FROZE overnight, and he was found by the Germans, who patched him up some and swapped him (so goes my version of the story - I am not sure of its veracity). He was one of the early plastic surgery recipients, which would explain why half his face never worked properly, not in any of the photos we have of him apart from the ones from before the war. His lungs certainly were scarred by mustard gas and he only had one kidney. He loved the Gattling Guns - we have a postcard where he enthuses about how many rounds per minute they fired - and moved into the machine gun corps. He got busted from corporal to private several times - we have a card saying busted again. He didn't seem to get along with authority well :-) He would not talk much about the war itself, only about other things like how wonderful the French women were. I guess they found this tall, lanky, blue eyed, curly blond haired Aussie interesting too!
Pop died when I was nearly 10. He had a stroke and faded over a week or two. My strongest memories of him are being scared of this tall old man with wild curly top of white hair, always neatly trimmed on each side, and a really husky rough voice, disgusting slobbery kisses from a bristly old face, and seeing him in the hospital when he couldn't talk due to being paralysed down one side, with his blue blue eyes sparkling at me, pleading with me for something I could not read. He died exactly 60 years to the day from 1916 when the Australian High Command sent a telegram advising that he had been killed in action.
My father missed out on fighting in WWII as he was in a protected industry, working for Holden. Presumably he worked on building trucks and stuff for the war effort. He taught women how to weld and said they were the best apprentices he ever had. They listened, they learned and they did a very neat, clean job, unlike the male apprentices he took on after the war in his own panelbeating business. I think he missed having women working with him later, for they were much easier to work with and teach. I guess this gave my father an unusual grounding for a man of his era. After the Old Man moved into a supported care place, we found an old wallet in his wardrobe, a wallet asking him to an interview for the RAF/Royal Australian Air Force. I hope my sister kept that wallet, cos it contains precious family history. We can't ask Father about anything like this now cos his memory is shot. He is 86, so it is fair enough.
I buy poppies for Pop. I grow Flanders Poppies in my front and back yards. I love the way they grow wild from seed year after year. I love their blood red petals with the black spot at the base. I love their fuzzy buds and serrated leaves. Most of all I love what they mean to me.