As the son of a veteran of World War Two, who was the son of a veteran of World War One, armed for Canada in England and France, I look upon “modern history” as a participant. By a miracle, neither father nor paternal grandfather was killed. (The maternal grandfather risked his life piloting coal trains.) Yet grandpa ran up Vimy Ridge, and across many once-famous mud-puddles. My father had it easy, by comparison, flying Spitfires. That way you sit through all the more violent bits, and witness most carnage from the top.

Both are gone now, and mama too, at advanced ages. Their children should soon be gone. We all fade, and must expect to spend a million years dead and forgotten for every evening that was memorable.

It is on this broad view that I forgive my countrymen — at least those in this part of the country — for neglecting to wear a poppy pin today. I did not spot even one, among all the transit customers, and only one in a medical waiting room (a very old lady). I was looking for poppies, obsessively, while riding buses and walking through crowds, on my way to and from the doctors’ appointments this morning. At the moment of eleven o’clock, there was nothing to be heard.

Except very softly, beating inside me: the echo of great wars. There was a time when we were capable of remembering, at least the more recent conflagrations; and knowing gratitude for those who had leapt to our defence. But now, after a short interval, we, the nominally living, have found our place with the dead. There was no passage in which we attained dignity, and no one will remember us, even briefly.