Natter and Review
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
The Evolution of My Remembrance
Today, I natter…
When I recall the Remembrance Days of my childhood, my most vivid memories are of my mother with a hanky in her hand, and her eyes filled with tears. Remembrance Day was way too painful for her. She told me that eight of her uncles had died during the First and Second World Wars. Some were pilots over Italy where they had been shot down. It pretty much decimated her family.
My dad’s side of the family was most prominently highlighted with tales of my grandfather and his adventures in the British Army. He had joined the cavalry at the age of seventeen and had seen action in the Boer War, Sri Lanka, WWI and many other places where the British Army had been. He was injured from mustard gas in the trenches in WWI. He rejoined the Canadian Armed Forces as a Private during WWII. He had been a Lieutenant Colonel when he left England. After WWII, he became a prison guard at Kingston Penitentiary until the mustard gas finally caught up with him. He died in the late 1940s.
My father joined the tank corps in Oshawa during WWII and was kept in the area because of his job. My mother worked in a factory that had been converted to make ammunition. So, they all did their part. My dad’s cousin Sid was wounded overseas and ended up in a British hospital, where he met his wife, his nurse. He stayed in England, they married and had a couple of children. Who’s to say what would have happened without the war and his being wounded?
I didn’t really think about Remembrance Day when I was young. I guess when we are teenagers or just inexperienced, we don’t dwell on war and death and destruction until we are either faced with those things directly, or we start to get older and realize how important life and peace really are. As I have aged, I’ve had so many things happen, like the loss of my parents and other close family members, the death of dear friends, and health issues which brought me right up close and personal with my own fate. Those things change you.
When I was fresh out of high school, I studied Law Enforcement at college, expecting to go into Police work. I knew everyone and they were hoping I would become the second female officer in our town. Back in those days, you couldn’t wear glasses and unfortunately, I had an issue with contact lenses. The only kind you could get were Boston Lenses, these rock-like pieces of glass. There was no way I could wear them. So my dreams fell apart. Shortly after leaving school, though, I met some questionable characters and found myself in a situation where I ended up working non-professionally with the police to take several of those folks off the street. It was a scary job and my life was threatened more than once. When it was all over, about three years later, every time I heard a sound outside, I started to shake. I didn’t feel secure or safe for years.
It took a long time to get over my fears and conquer my stress, so I can imagine what it would be like to be in territories far away from home, where you don’t know who your enemies are, who might desire to kill both you and themselves, without hesitation, and the fear of roadside bombs just waiting for you to drive by. That would make my stress look like a walk in the park.
I guess because of the military background of various family members, and the stories I heard when growing up, soldiering was tucked away, just beneath the surface, in the back of my mind. So when I woke up from a particularly devastating and very disfiguring surgery, to find myself in agonizing pain, my first thoughts went to soldiers wounded on a battlefield, with no one there to help them or relieve their pain. I laid there in recovery and all I could think about was wounded soldiers. I forgot what I was going through and just fixated on them. The thoughts wouldn’t go away. They still haunt me, and are never far from my mind.
As a result of my early time working with the police, and then the surgeries and and all the extras that went along with that, I have suffered from PTSD for several years. Every time the phone rings and a doctor calls, my blood pressure can go up and I’ll have a full blown panic attack.
For a long time I kept my fears to myself, but after my blood pressure checks kept going up every time I had to see a doctor or go anywhere new, where I felt I was not safe, or just out of my comfort zone, I finally spilled my guts and told my husband. Now when a doctor’s visit is involved, he takes my blood pressure daily for a few days before the event and just gives the doctor the results. (The hubby was a paramedic.) It has saved me a lot of stress. And stopped the doctors from thinking I’m dying from high blood pressure. And I’m getting better. It’s been a slow process. But it’s progress.
Now when Remembrance Day comes up, my heart goes out to all the soldiers serving and all those veterans wounded and suffering with their wounds, both physical, mental and emotional, as well as the spiritual sides. It’s been common practise for only physical wounds to have been acknowledged as important. Recognition of the other levels of injury are slowly evolving. PTSD is not an easy thing. Telling someone to “get over it” or “suck it up” doesn’t help. It only makes things worse and adds a level of frustration, and sometimes anger, which can be compounded with depression.
So Remembrance Day has evolved for me. Now I find myself with a hanky in my hand and tears in my eyes, thinking about the eight great-uncles who never had a chance to grow old, a grandfather I never got to meet, and all the families who have lost loved ones because of war. I cry when I see the pictures of old. I can rattle off “In Flanders Fields” as if it was yesterday that we had to memorize it in public school. It’s always there.
We as a nation, must never forget our wounded warriors, nor can we ever forget those who currently serve. It is our duty to support them no matter where they are.
Please encourage your politicians and our present government to increase veteran support and keep the wages of active soldiers high enough that they never have to struggle monetarily. They should have free medical coverage for the rest of their lives and be able to get discounted mortgages when they desire to get a home. They should be able to get jobs and any psychological help they desire. And none of them, should ever be homeless. That is a travesty. Please support them and the charities that assist them.
Here are several links to charities, government sites and others. Please check them out and do what you can.