Remembrance Day

That time of yeeare, … when yellow leaves are shaken from the bough; and those, including them so young, that wear the poppies. Through sixtyish years of comparative peace, I have waited on the knell; for the two minutes of perfect silence; for the trumpet and the invocation of “Flanders Fields” — hoping the bastards will not again omit the last stanza, which makes the whole point. Or for the words from Laurence Binyon which, however often repeated, find the heart every time:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them. …

My papa’s flyboy monkey helmet is now folded into my grandpa’s field satchel, on a top shelf: the Second World War tucked into the First. Once a year I take it down to dust; dig out grandpa’s trench diaries, papa’s pilot log. Turn the creakling pages. Touch photos of these young men in their sparkling uniforms. My sister has sent a new one she has found, very sharp after more than seventy years, which startles as if just taken. That innocent smiling face: shipping out to Europe. Good Lord, he is just a kid!

Pause to pray, on behalf of our fathers, for all those buddies who did not come home. Whose mothers wept when they read the cable; whose fathers stood to attention, lost; whose little siblings ran about the yard. Think strangely of all the missing descendants, of those boys called from the Ontario farms (and from every quiet corner of the Empire). And of their time of trial, among bullets and bombs: terrified but indomitable. Of those who lay in the mud of battle; and those who lived, to gutter out in age. Of our dead who sleep under the winter snows.

Sinking, now, deeper in the earth, one with the veterans of Thermopylae.